Reformation Day – the Anglican Heritage.

somehow this say in the ether for 24 hours…
Today is Reformation Day, the anniversary of the event which kicked off the Reformation, Luther’s nailing of 95 Theses to the door of the Church in Wittenburg.

WIthin a generation the movement had spread throughout Western Europe. Of particular interest to us as Anglicans is the Reformation in England. Whilst it cannot be denied that part of the driving force of the English Reformation was Henry VIII’s desire to assert his autonomy from Rome, not least in the matter of his marriage to Katherine of Aragon, the sea-change in ecclesiology in England was more than political expediency. The writings of Luther were being discussed by prominent churchmen in England – Cranmer, Latimer and Barnes – as early as 1521 (4 years after Wittenburg) at the White Horse Tavern in Cambridge (after which this blog is named).

The influence of the Reformation on Anglicanism cannot be understated. Even a brief read of the Anglican Articles and the Homilies reveal as much, the five solas of the Reformation pervade Anglicanism’s foundational documents . So, for instance,

Sola Scriptura – scripture alone

VI. Of the Sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures for Salvation.
Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.

Sola Fide – faith alone

XI. Of the Justification of Man.
We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by Faith, and not for our own works or deservings. Wherefore, that we are justified by Faith only, is a most wholesome Doctrine, and very full of comfort, as more largely is expressed in the Homily of Justification.

Solus Christus – Christ Alone

XVIII. Of obtaining eternal Salvation only by the Name of Christ.
They also are to be had accursed that presume to say, That every man shall be saved by the Law or Sect which he professeth, so that he be diligent to frame his life according to that Law, and the light of Nature. For Holy Scripture doth set out unto us only the Name of Jesus Christ, whereby men must be saved.

Sola Gratia – grace alone

X. Of Free-Will.
The condition of Man after the fall of Adam is such, that he cannot turn and prepare himself, by his own natural strength and good works, to faith; and calling upon God. Wherefore we have no power to do good works pleasant and acceptable to God, without the grace of God by Christ preventing us, that we may have a good will, and working with us, when we have that good will.

all of which lead us to the final conclusion of the Reformers… Soli Deo Gloria – to God alone be the glory!!!

We reaffirm that because salvation is of God and has been accomplished by God, it is for God’s glory and that we must glorify him always. We must live our entire lives before the face of God, under the authority of God and for his glory alone.

We deny that we can properly glorify God if our worship is confused with entertainment, if we neglect either Law or Gospel in our preaching, or if self-improvement, self-esteem or self-fulfillment are allowed to become alternatives to the gospel.

and let’s not forget such radically “Calvinist” theologies such as…

XVII. Of Predestination and Election.
Predestination to Life is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby (before the foundations of the world were laid) he hath constantly decreed by his counsel secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom he hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation, as vessels made to honour.

It’s about time we rediscovered these great truths. They are not one way of understanding the gospel but they are The Gospel. This is the great work that God did in Europe almost 500 years ago, bringing about a rediscovery of true doctrine and reasserting His rightful place as the only one who may receive glory.

It is, to my mind, a tragedy that so much of Anglicanism, let alone Protestanism, has neglected it’s roots. If I might be so bold there is even perhaps a lack of integrity amongst those who swear to uphold the Articles, the doctrine of the Anglican Church, and then seek to reinterpret those documents in their own fashion. It is not just Newman who did this and this is not just an issue of rampant revisionism – the dilution of the truths that founded the Anglican Church has spread exponentially wider than Bishop Spong and no. 815.


450 years ago one of the men that met in the White Horse Tavern, Hugh Latimer, was burned at the stake for truths that so many of us sit lightly to today. He went to his death alongside another great man, Nicholas Ridley, and uttered these immortal words,

Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man; we shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.

All over England and, indeed, all over the world, that candle is sadly spluttering.

Friends, it’s time for us Anglicans to rediscover what it is what our demonimation is founded upon, indeed what the whole of Protestantism is founded upon. Perhaps it’s as simple as reading the Articles and the Homilies and allowing ourselves to be suprised by the strength of the doctrines that are asserted there.

Go on, give it a go. And get that candle burning again.

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12 comments on “Reformation Day – the Anglican Heritage.

  1. it’s so funny, cuz i am totally with you calvinists, right up until that no free will part. i’m not trying to start an argument with you (but i’d love a discussion!!), but i just find that calvinist theology, as i understand it, incorporates an interpretation of God’s sovreignty that, followed to it’s ultimate conclusion, is inconsistent with God’s character as revealed in scripture.

    personally, i believe that scripture reveals something of salvation that is part calvinist, part arminian. i can’t fully reconcile that in my human mind, but i’m completely convinced that’s ok. i mean, how can we fully reconcile an infinate God in our finite minds? πŸ™‚

    • it’s so funny, cuz i am totally with you calvinists, right up until that no free will part. i’m not trying to start an argument with you (but i’d love a discussion!!), but i just find that calvinist theology, as i understand it, incorporates an interpretation of God’s sovreignty that, followed to it’s ultimate conclusion, is inconsistent with God’s character as revealed in scripture.

      sure thing. You’ve nailed the main issue of dispute. Perhaps this is better over IM? Do get hold of me.

        • well, i would love to do that. but, it may prove difficult, as by my calculations, you are 17 hours ahead of texas, time-wise.

          well, we can do it whichever way works better for you. Either find me online or start here: lay out your problem with Calvinism and I’ll try and work with you from here.

          • i really appreciate your willingness to talk to me about this. i totally respct your opinion, and, while so often these types of discussions denegrate into contention, i think that you and i can keep the conversation edifying – by the power of the Holy Spirit, of course. πŸ™‚

            ok, here’s the biggest problem:

            as it has been explained to me, the calvinist position is that in his depraved state, man cannot choose to accept or reject God’s offer of salvation, and that to suggest he can is an affront to God’s sovreignty.

            as it has been explained to me, only “the elect” can accept God’s offer, and only because God has regenerated them in the moment prior/of their acceptance.

            i find this difficult to accept, as i believe there are a number of passages in the Word that suggest that salvation is an offer to “whosoever will.”

            as for man’s choosing, as i understand it, calvinists belive that men cannot make any free choices, because God is sovreign and His will must always be done. if man has any free will, then this would encroach upon God’s sovreignty.

            i find this understanding of God’s sovreignty troubling, as followed to it’s ultimate conclusion, it would seem to suggest that God is Himself the author of evil. if men cannot have free will, because all must go according to God’s will, then did lucifer have free will when he wished to be in God’s place, or did God’s sovreignty not allow for that? if it’s the latter, then i think we have a serious problem!!

            here’s my position – my conviction if you will, from reading the Word and seeking the Holy Spirit’s teaching:

            1. God is sovreign, however, in His sovreignty, He has given man a limited amount of sovreignty, to choose to accept or reject Him. witness Adam and Eve – God did not want mindless automatons as servants, and so He gave them a choice: choose Me or choose sin. they failed and chose sin. further, witness the autrocities that men commit against one another. God allows that, but, unless man has a free will to choose some of his actions, then God has to be the author of the evil we do to one another, and that is just not consistent with His character as revealed in Scripture.

            2. Christ died for the sins of the world, because God so loved the world, and so atonement was not limited. however:

            3. Christ’s death is only efficacious for those that accept it, receive it as a gift.

            4. Eph. 2:8&9. Sola Fide, Solus Christus and Sola Gratia!! Even the faith to believe that Jesus is just who He says He is is a gift from God. however, how men choose to respond to that gift, is up to them. some men choose to reject, and some accept. but it is a responsibility of man to choose.

            5. once chosen to accept God’s gift of salvation, we are not our own, and Christ’s finished work on the cross is sufficient to maintain our salvation until the end.

            I guess those are my five points, for now! πŸ˜‰

            I look forward to your thoughts. πŸ™‚

            • hey ,

              I’ll work through your post bit by bit. Feel free to take up the strands that you think are addressing the important issues.

              as it has been explained to me, the calvinist position is that in his depraved state, man cannot choose to accept or reject God’s offer of salvation, and that to suggest he can is an affront to God’s sovreignty.

              You’re right in the first part – that’s the doctrine of Depravity. The last is missing one part of the logic. It’s an affront to God Himself because it claims for man something which God Himself does thus attributing to the worth of man something which scripture says is of God and brings glory to God.

              as it has been explained to me, only “the elect” can accept God’s offer, and only because God has regenerated them in the moment prior/of their acceptance.

              Yes, that’s right. But, again, let me clarify. The elect (a biblical term meaning “chosen”) will respond since God has chosen from before history to regenerate them. When they are regenerate they naturally choose for Jesus Christ whereas prior to regeneration we all, in our sin, choose against Christ.

              i find this difficult to accept, as i believe there are a number of passages in the Word that suggest that salvation is an offer to “whosoever will.”

              Well, 2 things here. First, “whosoever” is a word implying choice that we get from the KJV of John 3:16. I wrote about this in depth here and I’d recommend chasing up that bit of the argument:
              http://davidould.livejournal.com/71134.html

              Second, the fact of an offer does not necessarily imply the ability to respond. So, for instance, were my daughter to grow up and become a drug addict I would be perfectly right to go to her and say “Charis – you should come home, it’s right for you to come home. Your current behaviour is dishonouring to me and harmful for you”. Now, I would say this irregardless of Charis’s ability to break out of her addiction and respond postively. In one sense, the deeper her addiction the more right it is for me to demand her repentance and the less able she is to respond.

              as for man’s choosing, as i understand it, calvinists belive that men cannot make any free choices, because God is sovreign and His will must always be done. if man has any free will, then this would encroach upon God’s sovreignty.

              No, that’s not right. The position is that man is not free to chose because he is sinful. His sinful nature always chooses against God. He simply will not choose the right. Nevertheless he exercises choices every day, it is just that he exercises them within his sinful nature so there are certain things that he will, by nature, simply not do (Rom 8:1-10). Luther put it like this: “Man is free to choose as he will, just not as he ought”.

              I’ve left your own thoughts alone. I don’t think you need deconstructing, I think this will be more fruitful if I first clarify your misunderstandings. Then I would want to move on to defend them from scripture.

              However, let me leave you with a small conundrum – where does the Bible ever speak of man’s “free-will”?

              look forward to your comments.

              • sorry this took so long!! i’ve been unwell and wanting to spend some time mulling over…

                It’s an affront to God Himself because it claims for man something which God Himself does thus attributing to the worth of man something which scripture says is of God and brings glory to God.

                ah. see, i don’t see that, because even if man has a responsibility to choose, it is God who gives man the ability to choose, so all the glory still belongs to him. based on ephesians 2:8-9, the faith to believe that Jesus is who He says He is is a gift from God, so all the glory is his. but man has the responsiblity as of what to do with that faith.

                Second, the fact of an offer does not necessarily imply the ability to respond. So, for instance, were my daughter to grow up and become a drug addict I would be perfectly right to go to her and say “Charis – you should come home, it’s right for you to come home. Your current behaviour is dishonouring to me and harmful for you”. Now, I would say this irregardless of Charis’s ability to break out of her addiction and respond postively. In one sense, the deeper her addiction the more right it is for me to demand her repentance and the less able she is to respond.

                while this may be true, you would make the offer with the hope that she would, in some moment, choose to come home. addicts make the choice every day to try to break free: enter rehab etc.

                However, let me leave you with a small conundrum – where does the Bible ever speak of man’s “free-will”?

                perhaps not directly of “free-will”, but of man’s responsibility:

                2 thess 2:13 But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.

                so, who does the believing: man or God? πŸ™‚

                • sorry this took so long!! i’ve been unwell and wanting to spend some time mulling over…

                  It’s an affront to God Himself because it claims for man something which God Himself does thus attributing to the worth of man something which scripture says is of God and brings glory to God.

                  ah. see, i don’t see that, because even if man has a responsibility to choose, it is God who gives man the ability to choose, so all the glory still belongs to him. based on ephesians 2:8-9, the faith to believe that Jesus is who He says He is is a gift from God, so all the glory is his. but man has the responsiblity as of what to do with that faith.

                  ok, but here you’ve introduced the notion of responsibility demonstrating ability. But scripture never makes that firm link. It holds us responsible for our actions but also tells us that we are depraved – unable to make the correct choice.

                  So, for example, here in Eph 2 we first learn that man is
                  dead in sin, following the course of the world and Satan, carrying out our own desires. There is not a hint of our ability to choose, in fact quite the contrary – we are presented as addicts of sin.
                  Then the emphasis switches, there is a strong contrast and God is introduced as the subject of all the verbs.
                  He makes us alive
                  He raised us up with Christ
                  This is not our doing but God’s

                  At no point does Paul ever say we did anything. It is all God’s action. True, Paul speaks of this as a gift but the only thing this can refer to is all the things that God has done. At no point in the passage is our action ever mentioned.

                  Second, the fact of an offer does not necessarily imply the ability to respond. So, for instance, were my daughter to grow up and become a drug addict I would be perfectly right to go to her and say “Charis – you should come home, it’s right for you to come home. Your current behaviour is dishonouring to me and harmful for you”. Now, I would say this irregardless of Charis’s ability to break out of her addiction and respond postively. In one sense, the deeper her addiction the more right it is for me to demand her repentance and the less able she is to respond.

                  while this may be true, you would make the offer with the hope that she would, in some moment, choose to come home. addicts make the choice every day to try to break free: enter rehab etc.

                  Possibly, but the Bible’s presentation of this addiction is not one where such decisions can be made.
                  So, for example,

                  Romans 8:7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

                  This is the addict of sin who cannot choose for rehab. He doesn’t want to. He is incapable of it. What he needs is (in Doctor Phil style) an intervention that does it all for him.

                  However, let me leave you with a small conundrum – where does the Bible ever speak of man’s “free-will”?

                  perhaps not directly of “free-will”, but of man’s responsibility:

                  2 thess 2:13 But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.

                  so, who does the believing: man or God? πŸ™‚

                  The calvinist doesn’t deny responsibility. But responsibility doesn’t automatically mean ability. The drug addict who is too far gone may be responsible for their actions but also completely incapable of choosing the right.

                  The key issue here is the extent of our depravity. Perhaps what I wrote some time ago would shed some more light?
                  http://davidould.net/totaldepravity.htm

                  • ok, let’s look at this from another direction…

                    let’s look at a comparison Jesus himself made.

                    John 3:14-15
                    14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.

                    so, Jesus Himself compared His crucifixion to moses lifting up the serpent in the wilderness. let’s look at that story.

                    Numbers 21:6-9
                    6 So the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died.
                    7 Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, β€œWe have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you; pray to the LORD that He take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.
                    8 Then the LORD said to Moses, β€œMake a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.

                    so, in the story in the wilderness, the people had sinned. moses made the serpent, and put it on a pole. if anyone looked at the serpent, he lived. it is unsaid, but implied, that those that looked at the serpent looked in faith. they believed that looking at the serpent could save them. otherwise, they wouldn’t have looked, right?

                    so, Jesus compared his crucifixion to moses and the serpent. now, were the snake-bitten israelites compelled to look at the serpent, or did they have a choice? the serpent was there and available for all of them, but only those who looked were saved, and there’s nothing in the text to lead us to believe that any were irresistably forced to look. and, there’s nothing in the text to lead us to believe that only an “elect” group could look at the serpent and be saved.

                    Jesus Himself made this comparison. He even said that “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” (John 12:32) so, does Jesus draw all men, as He said, or only the elect?

                    to my simple, dare i say, childlike, mind, it seems clear that, in comparing His crucifixion to the serpent in the wilderness, and saying that He would draw all men to Himself, Jesus is pointing to the universal availability of His atonement to all who will give up faith in their own dead works, and look to Him alone for salvation, just as the snake-bitten israelites that gave up faith in themselves to survive looked to the serpent on the pole, in faith.

                    further, we see in John 6:28-29, what is required:

                    28 Then they said to Him, β€œWhat shall we do, that we may work the works of God?”
                    29 Jesus answered and said to them, β€œThis is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”

                    ah, the only work that is not a work! πŸ™‚ believe in Jesus, abandon all hope in your own dead works, and be saved! what a glorious mystery of the Gospel! Jesus Himself points to the necessity of a man believing – choosing even to believe. the people asked him what to do, and He told them. wouldn’t that be cruel to tell them, if they couldn’t do it? it would be like telling the lame to take up their bed and walk, without healing them – knowing that they could not do it.

                    πŸ™‚

                    i’m loving this, btw. the Word is so amazing.

                    • ok, let’s look at this from another direction…

                      ok, I’ll take that as you conceding the points I’ve made… πŸ˜‰

                      let’s look at a comparison Jesus himself made.

                      John 3:14-15
                      14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.

                      ok, but granted I’ve already given a detailed a exegesis of 3:15 since it’s the replical precursor to John 3:16.

                      What you then do is go on to suggest exactly the same argument as before – that the offer of a choice assumes complete ability to make a choice. I think I’ve demonstrated that:

                      1 the choice doesn’t imply the necessary agency.
                      2 that in this specific example the language of choice is not used (although implied in a way in the Numbers antecedent).
                      3 that the passage doesn’t explain how one becomes a believer but what a believing response looks like
                      4 that the ability to believe or not is defined earlier in the passage, where Jesus states clearly to Nicodemus that one must be born again and ascribes this not to man’s agency but to the external autonomous work of the Spirit.

                      Jesus Himself made this comparison. He even said that “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” (John 12:32) so, does Jesus draw all men, as He said, or only the elect?

                      Well, in this case the “all” has to be clearly defined. The passage is at a fulcrum point in John’s gospel. John 12:20 introduces a completely new phenomenon in the gospel – Gentiles (greeks) asking after Jesus. It is in this context that Jesus then explains His work. So the point is not that Jesus makes an exhaustive call upon every single member of humanity, but that his call is not restricted to the Jews but is to all people.

                      The nature of the call is set out clearly in John 6, to which I’ll turn in a moment as you’ve already taken us there.

                      to my simple, dare i say, childlike, mind, it seems clear that, in comparing His crucifixion to the serpent in the wilderness, and saying that He would draw all men to Himself, Jesus is pointing to the universal availability of His atonement to all who will give up faith in their own dead works, and look to Him alone for salvation, just as the snake-bitten israelites that gave up faith in themselves to survive looked to the serpent on the pole, in faith.

                      Well, yes. But the problem comes in making the text say more than it actually says. So, I’d suggest, it’s not that your mind is childlike at all, far from it, but that you have a presupposition that filters the way you understand certain texts.

                      further, we see in John 6:28-29, what is required:

                      28 Then they said to Him, β€œWhat shall we do, that we may work the works of God?”
                      29 Jesus answered and said to them, β€œThis is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”

                      ah, the only work that is not a work! πŸ™‚ believe in Jesus, abandon all hope in your own dead works, and be saved! what a glorious mystery of the Gospel! Jesus Himself points to the necessity of a man believing – choosing even to believe. the people asked him what to do, and He told them. wouldn’t that be cruel to tell them, if they couldn’t do it? it would be like telling the lame to take up their bed and walk, without healing them – knowing that they could not do it.

                      Well, it would be – except that Jesus does heal individuals and then tell them to take up their beds and walk.
                      You choose an intriguing passage, for the conversation does not finish at v29. Rather He goes on. In particular you might want to consider exactly what He’s saying in 6:37 and 6:44. Take care that you follow His exact logic.

                      i’m loving this, btw. the Word is so amazing.

                      Yes, agreed. There’s nothing like it. πŸ™‚

                    • ok, but granted I’ve already given a detailed a exegesis of 3:15 since it’s the replical precursor to John 3:16.

                      i must have missed that. i see you talked about v 16, but not about v 15. πŸ™‚

                      What you then do is go on to suggest exactly the same argument as before – that the offer of a choice assumes complete ability to make a choice.

                      yes, i did. i was trying to make my point with a different argument.

                      I think I’ve demonstrated that:

                      1 the choice doesn’t imply the necessary agency.

                      you haven’t convinced me with your argument on that. your example of drug addiction is one which the unregenerate foil every day. πŸ™‚

                      2 that in this specific example the language of choice is not used (although implied in a way in the Numbers antecedent).

                      what’s your explanation of the comparison Jesus makes to the Numbers antecendant, then?

                      3 that the passage doesn’t explain how one becomes a believer but what a believing response looks like

                      3:16? really? hmm. i don’t see that. i see that your example seeks to explain that the translation implies a broader group than the original text does, but not that it describes what the response looks like.

                      4 that the ability to believe or not is defined earlier in the passage, where Jesus states clearly to Nicodemus that one must be born again and ascribes this not to man’s agency but to the external autonomous work of the Spirit.

                      yes. but the question is, when does the birth in the Spirit happen? i’ve not been convinced by any of your arguments that it happens prior to man’s surrender.

                      So the point is not that Jesus makes an exhaustive call upon every single member of humanity, but that his call is not restricted to the Jews but is to all people.

                      it seems convenient to interpret all that way, rather than to interpret it simply as all.

                      Well, yes. But the problem comes in making the text say more than it actually says. So, I’d suggest, it’s not that your mind is childlike at all, far from it, but that you have a presupposition that filters the way you understand certain texts.

                      that’s so easily true of all of us. we must pray that the Teacher would illuminate the Scriptures for us. πŸ™‚

                      Well, it would be – except that Jesus does heal individuals and then tell them to take up their beds and walk.

                      exactly. he gives them the agency prior to the command.

                      You choose an intriguing passage, for the conversation does not finish at v29. Rather He goes on. In particular you might want to consider exactly what He’s saying in 6:37 and 6:44. Take care that you follow His exact logic.

                      v 37 is VERY interesting. Jesus said He would draw all men to Himself. He and the Father are one. so, if Jesus draws all men to Himself, and only those that are drawn by the Father can come to Jesus, then all can come (have agency to come), but only those that believe have everlasting life.

                      v 40 is also very interesting, in light of the Numbers passage: “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” just as all who looked at the serpent were healed…

                      further: 2 peter 3:9
                      The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

                      or, is He willing that the non-elect should perish? it seems that the calvinist principles say that God is willing that some should perish, because He gives them no agency, and His Son’s death was not for them, but only for those He chose to not perish.

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