Wednesday, December 05, 2007

"Confessional Anglicanism"

I was speaking at lunch today to the son of a foreign Anglican cleric, and he expressed the view that the majority of evangelical Anglicans were in his experience confessional Anglicans - they saw the 39 Articles as a confession of faith to which they subscribed.

Now I very much like the 39 Articles - they are great at repudiating the sorts of heresies that were common in England in the mid 16th century, which is what they were written for (though I disagree with one point in them - see below) and where Anglican polity conflicts with Roman Catholic or Methodist or Presbyterian or Baptist polity, I usually agree with the Anglicans. We also mentioned Roman Catholics, who often see it as a membership thing rather than a confessional thing - they are Catholics because they were brought up Catholics or were converted in a Catholic church and can remain part of the Catholic church without necessarily agreeing with all of its doctrines.

But I see my Anglican identity much more like that - as being a "membership Anglican" rather than a "confessional Anglican". The Church of England is the historic Church in England, as preserved by the grace of God essentially since Christianity first came to England. It doesn't require me to believe or do anything contrary to Scripture, so I think it would be wrong to leave it, and right to submit to it on secondary issues on which the Bible is silent (for example, who can preside at a communion service). I'm a membership Anglican and a confessional evangelical.

As for where I disagree with the 39 Articles...

Article VIII

The three Creeds, Nicene Creed, Athanasius' Creed, and that which is commonly called the Apostles' Creed, ought thoroughly to be received and believed; for they may be proved by most certain warrants of Holy Scripture.

Of course, Athanasius didn't write the creed that bears his name, and it was never approved by a Church Council (unlike the Nicene Creed which was confusingly from the Council of Constantinople). Athanasius' Creed is actually theologically Augustinian rather than Athanasian, and while I agree with the substance of the creed and with everything in the main body of the creed, I don't agree with the prologue, which is still part of the Creed.

Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith. Which Faith except everyone do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the Catholic Faith is this...

The Creed of St Athanasius

Now, I'd like to see someone try to prove that from Holy Scripture, with particular reference to the thief on the cross and for that matter any theologian before Augustine. Oh, and to show that holding an orthodox doctrine of the Trinity is more important than trusting Jesus.

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