“The English School of Theology experienced a renaissance of sorts under the ‘Caroline Divines,’ the theologians who delineated the manner in which the Church of England did and did not agree with the Reformation as articulated on the Continent; these Divines number among them Blessed Lancelot Andrewes, Blessed George Herbert, Blessed John Cosin, Blessed Thomas Ken, Blessed William Laud, Blessed Jeremy Taylor, and Richard Hooker. These men were most emphatic on demonstrating their adherence to the Fathers of the Church rather than to their own reading of Scriptures.”
Gerald McDermott – recently retired Chair of Anglican Divinity at Beeson Divinity School, the author or editor of 23 books, and teacher of courses in Anglicanism, history and doctrine, theology of world religions, and Jonathan Edwards – on the much-debated subject of the Anglican via media.
As quoted above, McDermott writes that “One could say that the argument over the Via Media is its own via media, cutting through two camps in the Anglican Communion,” and continues,
“Although there have been various ways of interpreting the term [via media], more recently its interpretation has divided two groups of Anglicans—those who insist on the Reformed character of Anglicanism and those who see Anglicanism as a way of being reformed and catholic but distinct from Rome.
The first group of Anglicans (let’s call them ‘Calvinist Anglicans’) says that the via media runs between Wittenberg and Geneva but finally ends in Geneva. The English Reformation, by its lights, was first inspired by Luther’s doctrine of justification by faith alone and grace alone. Then it turned to Calvin and his Institutes as its best expression of Christian faith purged of papist ceremonial. Cranmer and Jewell turned attention away from Catholic spectacle and back toward the preached Word. The Protestant center of Anglicanism is demonstrated by the Thirty-Nine Articles’ exaltation of biblical authority and rejection of Catholic sacramentalism.
“The other group of Anglicans (‘reformed catholic Anglicans’ might be apt) acknowledges Reformed influence on the early Anglican theologians and continued Reformation influence on Anglican soteriology and authority. For a few examples, Anglicans have always rejected Pelagianism, papism, and Mariolatry. But reformed catholic Anglicans point as well to the embrace of catholic worship—not Roman but patristic, and that of the undivided Church of the first millennium of Christianity—by its earliest reformers and continuing through the Elizabethan and Restoration eras.”
“For these and a hundred other reasons, historians such as the general editor of the Oxford History of Anglicanism have maintained that ‘[d]eveloping within Anglicanism over centuries was a creative but also divisive tension between Protestantism and Catholicism, between the Bible and tradition, between the Christian past and contemporary thought and society.'”
It will probably surprise few regular readers of this blog that The Anglophilic Anglican falls into the second of these two camps: seeing in the Anglican tradition an expression of Christianity which is both Reformed and Catholic, but not Romanist. So, it appears, does McDermott; and he spends the rest of this fairly long but interesting essay in defending that stance – or as he puts it, endeavoring to
“show in this space that the reformed catholic conception of the via media as running between Rome and Geneva more accurately depicts the Anglican story than the Calvinist one. The Reformed tradition has had an undoubted influence upon our faith and worship, but it is only part of the story” –
as well as providing some cautions for those who would behave in a manner too over-zealous, on either side. As he concludes,
“I would suggest that… we should accept our Calvinist Anglican brothers and sisters as good Anglicans whom we can invite to share more of our rich Anglican patrimony. Come not only to hear but also to taste and see.
“We ask in turn that our Calvinist brethren would accept us as genuine Anglicans [as well]. Let us say to one another, Come let us reason together and learn from each other.
“We’ve analyzed the numbers, and the one pattern that’s emerging here is that 100% of human beings are still in the loving hands of their Creator,” said a spokesperson for the CDC. “Christ created the world and holds the universe together by the power of His will. In Him all things hold together.”
The Babylon Bee has a knack for concealing truth under the guise of humour (or satire). Here, the truth is a little closer to the surface, and not very satirical at all:
“Remarkably, this data is very similar to researchers’ findings during the Fall of Rome, Black Plague, Holocaust, Spanish flu, swine flu, bird flu, and every other time of turmoil humanity has faced. No matter what the specific plague or time of suffering, research has always pointed to the fact that God is sovereign and bends the thread of history to His will for His glory.”
Reminds me of my dear late mother, who, when I used to worry about things – from problems in school to the danger of nuclear armageddon (I grew up at the height of the Cold War) – would give me a comforting hug and remind me, “God is still in charge.”
Today, known as Ash Wednesday, marks the first day of Lent in the Western Christian tradition – including Anglicans, Roman Catholics, Old Catholics, Lutherans, and others. And Lent is, of course, the holy season of self-examination, penitence, and preparation as we who are Christians prepare for the Feast of the Resurrection on Easter Sunday. These two lovely images, from Enid Chadwick’s marvelous little volume, My Book of the Church’s Year, do an excellent job of presenting the key themes of Lent!
There are actually six Sundays in Lent; the others being Passion Sunday (Lent V) and Palm Sunday (Lent VI) – which, as the above notes, are found in a separate image – and are collectively known as “Passiontide.”
Wishing all my Christian viewers a holy, blessed, and fruitful Lenten observance!
Nota Bene: Chadwick’s book has recently be re-published by St. Augustine Academy Press. I’ve obtained a copy (not receiving any compensation for this “plug”), and I commend it to your attention!
Wishing all my Christian friends a holy and blessed Lenten season. May our time of self-examination, penitence, and preparation prepare us for a joyful and blessed celebration of the Feast of the Resurrection, come Easter!
Today is celebrated by some Protestant Christians as “Reformation Day,” in memory of the fact that Martin Luther nailed his “95 Theses” to the church door at Wittenberg on 31 October 1517, sparking the Protestant Reformation. But what of that Reformation? While the title of this essay is rather click-bait-y, it raises some excellent points:
“Whether someone sides with Catholic or Protestant theology, the Reformation is not something that ought to be celebrated, but much rather commemorated… I may not be an expert historian, but my learnings have led me to believe that neither Catholics nor Protestants have the higher moral ground in the outcome of such a travesty. I believe all Christians can benefit from refraining from boasting in a movement that was motivated by the thoughts and actions of mere men.”
And which has led to untold death, destruction, division, and polarization in the centuries since. I tend to view the Reformation as a (possibly, on the assumption that Rome was incapable of reforming itself, apart from the resulting revolution – an assumption which is neither provable nor disprovable at this juncture) necessary evil, in light of some very real late-medieval errors and abuses on the part of the Roman Church. That said, the idea that it was a triumph of faith, reason, and theological precision in direct contradistinction to “Popish superstition” and apostasy is a lot harder to defend, if one looks at the matter in more detail.
Particularly onerous to me is the implication – and, at times, outright assertion – on the part of some Protestants that the Holy Spirit had in effect abandoned the Church for a period of a thousand years, from the end of the 5th century to the beginning of the 16th. And of course, the Reformation enshrined the principle of individual interpretation, the dismantling of tradition, and the devaluation of the authority found in the consensus fidelium, which led – via a trajectory clearly traceable from the Reformation through the “Enlightenment” – to the contemporary marginalization of the Church(es) and the Christian faith itself, in our present era.
So, no, I do not “celebrate” the Reformation. I tip my hat to it; I recognize the value in some of its accomplishments, and in what some of its leaders said and did. But I don’t deify it, I don’t idolize it, and I don’t let myself be blinded to its shadow side.