Monday, September 10, 2007

What IS Anglicanism?

Quote du jour for a Monday morning from Urban T. Holmes "What Is Anglicanism?":

ON THE AUTHORITY OF SCRIPTURE: “The Puritans taught that the Scriptures provided a certainty that transcended all other certainty, including reason, which reason they wished to confine to "science” (e.e. all forms of human learning). They believed that the Scriptures must be read for themselves and devoid of subsequent interpretations, namely, tradition. Hooker’s answer to this was that the Scriptures when read apart from reason and tradition and were subject to the all kinds of private interpretations, which would of necessity be biased. Hence, Hooker articulates for Anglicanism its answer to the question of what is our authority. Our authority is the association of Scripture, tradition and reason … Scripture for the Anglican is a fundamental source of authority for the church; but apart from reason it is dangerous. It becomes the mirror for the misdirected person to project his or her own opinions and give them the authority of God. The sin of schism in the result.”

– Urban T. Holmes, “What Is Anglicanism” pg. 11-13

And let the people say, "AMEN!"

P.S -- Hmmm .. "The sin of schism?" Methinks his point is VERY well taken!

19 comments:

obadiahslope said...

Thankyou for posting on this topic, it is a good subject for us to explore. Hooker made scripture chief among the triad of scripture, reason and tradition. Those of us who are sola scriptura anglicans will be informed in our reading of scripture by tradition and read it using reason. Yet for us the best interpreter of scripture may be scripture itself.
Article 20 puts the place of scripture well: "And yet it is not lawful for the Church to ordain anything contrary to God’s Word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another. Wherefore, although the Church be a witness and a keeper of holy Writ, yet, as it ought not to decree any thing against the same, so besides the same ought it not to enforce any thing to be believed for necessity of Salvation."

RonF said...

Actually, what Hooker said was:

What Scripture doth plainly deliver, to that the first place both of credit and obedience is due; the next whereunto, is what any man can necessarily conclude by force of Reason; after this, the voice of the church succeedeth.

What we have here is that a plain reading of Scripture is primary. What can be reasoned from scripture is valid if and only if it does not conflict with a plain reading of Scripture. What the Church's tradition and customs say are valid if and only if they do not conflict with neither what can be reasoned from Scripture nor with a plain reading of Scripture itself.

The author quoted says:

Hooker’s answer to this was that the Scriptures when read apart from reason and tradition and were subject to the all kinds of private interpretations, which would of necessity be biased. Hence, Hooker articulates for Anglicanism its answer to the question of what is our authority. Our authority is the association of Scripture, tradition and reason. Scripture for the Anglican is a fundamental source of authority for the church; but apart from reason it is dangerous.

It seems remarkable to me that the author finds support for this statement in Hooker. Hooker says that reason is subservient to Scripture, not that it's to be used to change it's meaning. In the actual quote from Hooker he makes very clear what the associations (or if you will, relationships) among Scripture, reason and tradition are; not a 3-legged stool (where all are on an equal footing) but a chain or hierarchy, where each level is subservient to the one above. I agree that reason is to be used to work out what God will want us to do when Scripture does not speak plainly, but the author seems to me to contradict this. Perhaps someone could quote for me from Hooker where he says that a plain reading of Scripture is to be modified by reason or tradition.

Suzer said...

Of course, we also have to realize that a "plain reading of Scripture" is a loaded statement in itself. What one reads plainly, may not be plain to another. Thus, our current state of schism.

Jon said...

Hooker in one place suggests that the reading of Scripture has pride of place, but the single quote is hardly all Hooker had to say on the matter. I'm no expert on Hooker, but I've heard that in his discussion of the reading of Scripture he makes it plain that one doesn't arrive at the plain meaning of Scripture apart from the use of Reason. Fr. Haller has a post on this subject at In a Godward Direction. I would add that Tradition is similarly bound by the use of Reason, since it is impossible to know Tradition apart from its expostulation by individuals.

Jon

Anonymous said...

ronf:

May I note that Scripture also "plainly" delivers a punishment for homosexual acts in Leviticus. The Bishop Orama quote/misquote merely affirmed that.

So, what is your position on this punishment "plainly" delivered by scripture?

uffda51 said...

Trent Lott equates homosexuality with kleptomania. Were the writers of Leviticus any more knowledgeable about human sexuality than Trent Lott, thousands of years before we even had a word for homosexuality?

All of us raised in the church were taught Leviticus. Many of us “came to believe,” to borrow a 12-step phrase, that God is not calling on us to scapegoat and demonize LGBT persons, and that to do so is abhorrent. We also learned that human sexuality is not a binary proposition but rather a spectrum, like height or eye color, and that there is no moral component involved.

Volumes have been written about Leviticus. Those that cite Leviticus with regard to LBGT issues are being extremely selective, ignoring many other passages that are no longer considered relevant by anyone. All of these verses must be considered within their cultural and historical context. Countless books have been written on this subject and are readily available.

So are those of us who favor full inclusion of LGBT persons within the AC ignoring the Bible? Or are the folks who oppose full inclusion rejecting the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives, while using the Bible to justify bigotry?

The Pilgrim said...

Susan said . . . .

"Hmmm .. "The sin of schism?" Methinks his point is VERY well taken!"

You really think so? Good to hear!

I expect to see all of you standing on the Pope's doorstep, hats in hands, asking for readmission.

RonF said...

Well, by all means let's see some more quotes from Hooker supporting the author's position. I didn't see any in the author's own work.

Anonymous said...

Criticizing the sin of schism? Citing hermeneutics as a reason for schism?

Um, these are catholic arguments against protestantism.

Are you saying you're a bunch of catholics? If so, how do you assert your catholicity when it disagrees not only with scripture, but with the tradition of all the catholic churches (Rome, Constantinople, even Canterbury thanks to Lambeth 1998)?

That leaves you with little left but reason, which since the days of Wittgenstein and Derrida, has been more than a bit wobbly. (Heck, it's been wobbly since Hume and Kant.)

Or do you say that the bishops are the source of catholicity, and the faith is whatever the bishops say it is? If so, why are your bishops correct and other bishops incorrect? Are you truly catholic and others aren't?

The mind boggles, as P.G. Wodehouse used to say. Or "embrace the questions" as an Anglican might say.

Cheers, all.

Bill @ Bill's Notes

Lorian said...

I grew up in the Assembly of God church. Bible reading, preferably from the KJV, was paramount. I read the Bible cover-to-cover well before I finished High School, and much of it while still in elementary school.

I was bemused when I heard people claim that the Bible was difficult to understand. To me, it seemed simple. You pick it up, you open it, you read the words -- few of which are beyond a sixth-grader's vocabulary level -- and, voila! you understand the Bible.

How shocked I was when I went off to college and took my first real religion courses. It took months of emotional pain and soul-searching before I began to allow myself to accept that the simplistic manner in which I had been taught to read and understand the Bible really only gave me an understanding of what hundreds of years of translators and transcribers and paraphrasers wanted me to believe the Bible said. Not only could I not simply sit down, open the Bible, and assume that whatever I thought I saw there was God's direct word to me and to all Christians, but there were some passages that even years and decades of study by scholars with far greater knowledge of ancient languages and texts than I am ever likely to attain, will not suffice to determine whether or not they are a part of the original text or a later addition, let alone what their exact and true meaning might be.

I look back on myself as a 10-year-old "Bible scholar," and sigh at the level of presumption inculcated by my fundamentalist upbringing. The pridefulness of assuming that I knew it all, that I had the key to understanding the mind of God -- what a false basis for living one's life and patterning one's beliefs. How little I actually knew. How little I even know now, approaching my 46th birthday.

Now I believe that love should be my yardstick, not judgment based in my "understanding" of scripture.

Jon said...

Bill, I think you may be confusing catholicity with dogma. Catholicity is more deeply grounded in the real world manefestation of the Church. Since TEC bishops are real bishops (having been properly consecrated) and since TEC has not violated any canons according to which we can to be punished (the Communion as a whole has no canons) it is silly to argue that TEC has magically lost the catholicity it had even ten years ago. Granted we could still choose to abandon the rest of the Communion, (which would impair our catholicity in the same way that the choices made in the Reformation impaired the catholicity of the western church) but it seems more likely that Archbishop Akinola and his associates will abandon the Communion first. I'll even grant that losing those GS primates would impair the catholicity of the Communion, but at the moment it seems like only the west is interested in working to remain in Communion.

ronf, the first block quote in the post I linked to is a good beginning of an examination of Hooker on the subject. Why don't you go and look in Hooker's Laws around III.viii.10 and see what else he has to say.

Jon

RonF said...

May I note that Scripture also "plainly" delivers a punishment for homosexual acts in Leviticus. The Bishop Orama quote/misquote merely affirmed that.

First; as a matter of course, do not expect me to respond to completely unsigned comments. Having said that, I'll make an exception here.

I think the situation is covered by John 8:1-11. The Pharisees brought the adulteress before Jesus and asked if she should be put to death, as required by the law. He said "Let he among you who is without sin cast the first stone." We all know how that worked out. The woman lived. But then Jesus told her, "Go and sin no more."

This seems to me to plainly say that I should not put homosexuals to death; but that it is entirely fair to recognize that their actions are sinful, and to tell them "Go and sin no more".

uffda51 said...

“What we have here is that a plain reading of Scripture is primary. What can be reasoned from scripture is valid if and only if it does not conflict with a plain reading of Scripture. What the Church's tradition and customs say are valid if and only if they do not conflict with neither what can be reasoned from Scripture nor with a plain reading of Scripture itself.”

This is positively Orwellian double speak.

So is equating adultery with homosexuality. Again, apples and oranges, like kidnapping and shoe size.

To come on this site to present the amazingly arrogant and condescending statement “I should not put homosexuals to death” is simply beyond the pale.

(Note to self – it is not necessary to respond to every post on Susan’s blog every day).

Mark said...

I always find it rather comical, this notion that the writers of Scripture were immune from the same mistakes and mire of personal/cultural opinion that attach to others. It's a position that intimates they had some kind of "Big Magic," that they were the ecclesial version of the X-Men.

It would be laughable, if it didn't result in so much harm.

The Pilgrim said...

"So is equating adultery with homosexuality. Again, apples and oranges, like kidnapping and shoe size."

It's NOT apples and oranges, it's all Sin.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it is breathtaking. Thanks for the small courtesy of not putting me to death.

I'll believe the conservatives are consistent when they stop performing marriages for divorced people, and stop consecrating remarried divorced people bishops. If a remarried divorce' is committing adultery every time s/he sleeps with his new spouse, then they are justified in calling my faithful gay partnership adulterous. Otherwise, they are being just as selective in their reading and their bias shows.

But you don't hear any calls to split your church over that, now, do you?

IT

Mike Bertaut said...

The interesting point of this argument to me is that the chain of decision making (from whence Christian Authority flows) had to be put in this particular order (Scripture, Reason, Tradition) in Hooker's time because of the "newness" of the C of E. But no matter how much of an exegete you think yourself, if you read Scripture as putting no moral bounds on sexuality at all, then you are really forced to ignore what would be the portions closest to Jesus himself.

Even John 8, where Jesus is said to tell the fallen woman "go and sin no more" is not present in the earliest known copies of John's gospel.

The really convincing part of the Gospels regarding sexuality and Jesus' views thereon are resident in the whole of Matthew and Luke, wherein we see clearly that Jesus was adamant about surrendering to authority and following the Law. Not only did He say His coming was not intended to Change the Law (by which He meant the Jewish MORAL code, not temple protocol laws, which he broke, nor even the civil code, which he challenged, but the MORAL code (10 Commandments et al.)) but to change the hearts of the Law-Enforcers.

In the most sensitive terms, we cannot find precedence within the Scriptures for an outright dismissal of Jewish Moral Law from Jesus' repetoire.

Now, if your 2007 decision is not to let your life be led or lived by some moldy old book, well then that is certainly your right.

But at that point, you would be on shaky Traditional ground by calling yourself Christian.

My 2 cents....

KTF!....mrb

RonF said...

uffda51 and anonymous, my comment was a direct response to anonymous (was it the same anonymous? Sign your posts, people) asking me about Leviticus' prescribed punishment for homosexual behavior. IIRC, that is to put the offenders to death. So I responded that the New Testament overrides that in a particular fashion.

I'm not the one who brought it up, folks.

RonF said...

I'll believe the conservatives are consistent when they stop performing marriages for divorced people, and stop consecrating remarried divorced people bishops.

Fine by me.

But you don't hear any calls to split your church over that, now, do you?

Get back to me on that when a divorced priest runs for bishop and contends that divorce is not only not sinful but is something that is not in fact condemned in the Bible and should be celebrated.