Thursday, August 31, 2006
The awkward noun “revisionism” has been much used within the membership of the American Anglican Council (ACC) and the Anglican Communion Network (ACN) in the last few years. Its use has not been that of pointing inwards but of pointing outwards, especially to the progressive leadership of The Episcopal Church.
Obviously in the context of church affairs, this word refers to a definite changing and revising of religious doctrine (or worship, morality and discipline) by a denomination or by groups within a denomination. As used by the ACC & CAN it apparently refers in the first place to the changing of teaching on human sexuality and sexual relations; and, in particular, to the new doctrine that covenanted relations between persons of the same sex/gender can be holy if they are faithful, and, when faithful, should be blessed by the church, just as the union of a man and woman is blessed. Secondly, the circle may be widened to include the changed doctrines of Scripture, of Jesus Christ, of sin and salvation usually held by progressives.
However, those who use this expression of liberal progressives in The Episcopal Church have to be careful because it can be quickly turned against them by skilful apologists for the “revised religion.” If the talk about sexual relations goes very far, the subject of divorce and remarriage soon surfaces and here there seems to be little difference between those who speak against revisionism and those who defend the new religion. In both camps the teaching of Jesus and the historic doctrine and discipline of the Church have, practically speaking, been abandoned in favor a pragmatic and utilitarian approach. Both “the orthodox” and the “progressives” are practicing revisionism just by following the canon law and pastoral practice of The Episcopal Church since 1973!
Looking over the history of the Anglican Churches one can find many examples of “revisionism” made effective and practiced both by the progressives (liberals, latitudinarians etc.) and the traditionalists (orthodox, conservative).
Certainly, one can say that Reformers like Archbishops Cranmer and Parker of the sixteenth century were revisionists! They revised (reformed) medieval religion on a big scale and this included most aspects of worship and teaching; but they did leave intact the basic dogmatic core of the classic doctrines of the Trinity and of the Person of Christ, together with the articles of the Creeds, with the Bible as the Word of God written.
Certainly also one can say that the Tractarians as they became Anglo-Catholics in the nineteenth century were revisionists. They were not satisfied with the Reformed Catholic worship and standards of the Church of England. They sought to make it look more like, and be in doctrine more like, what they imagined to be true Catholic religion (which meant practically like aspects of Roman Catholicism in Europe).
Further, one can say that the liturgists of the 1960s and 1970s who pushed strongly for new forms of service (and for new doctrine within these services) were revisionists. Nowhere is this clearer than in The Episcopal Church which in the late 1970s replaced its inherited, classic Book of Common Prayer (edition of 1928) by a new “Book of Varied Services with varied doctrines” (created by its Standing Liturgical Commission), to which it attached the old title in order to make it appear that it was merely a new edition of the old book! This was revision indeed!
Then, one can say that those who in the 1970s pushed for and obtained the change in the ordained Ministry of the Church, were also revisionists (certainly the Pope and the Orthodox Patriarchs see them as such). To introduce women into all three Orders of the Threefold Ministry was revolutionary for a religion whose traditional, biblical morality includes the headship of the male in the family and church.
And one could go on to supply other illustrations.
The problem is that within the confused state of the Anglican or Episcopal Way in North America right now  the use of the noun “revisionism” or “revisionist” is not helpful at all. The CAN, for example, stands firmly for the innovation (revision) of the Ministry allowing women as presbyters and bishops and most of its members happily use the “revisionist” prayer book of 1979! Though claiming the title and description of “the orthodox” the CAN is in practice revisionist in significant areas – unless, that is, we regard the Episcopal Church of say 1990 with its canon law and formularies as thy were then as “orthodox” (thereby making what is orthodox in 1960 very different from what is orthodox in 1990 and not having any continuity in orthodoxy!).
Before we use the word “revisionism” (or related words) we need to have an agreement as to what precisely is in place before any revision takes place, so that what we say is rational and logical. For example, if we confine the use of the word to sexuality and sexual relations, then when did the revision begin and by whom? Did it start…
In 1930 when the Lambeth Conference and PECUSA Bishops recommended artificial birth control for family planning?
In 1960 when the pill became generally available and its use was commended by Episcopal Bishops?
In 1973 when the canon law on marriage was drastically changed to take account of the increasing number of divorced and remarried Episcopalians?
In 1977 when ordination of women gave the role of “headship” to women in the church?
In 1979 when the new marriage service accommodated to changes in the vocation of marriage in western society?
In 2003 when Gene Robinson was elected bishop?
Or some other time?
My own view is that for most of the twentieth century it could be said that The Episcopal Church was publicly revising the received doctrine and vocation of marriage and of sexual relations. Thus, it would appear, only those who resisted all the way are not guilty of revisionism!
[See further Peter Toon, Episcopal Innovations 1960-2004, available from www.anglicanmarketplace.com or by calling 1-800-727-1928]
The Rev’d Dr. Peter Toon MA., D.Phil (Oxford)
In The Book of Common Prayer (from the first edition of 1549 to the latest American edition of 1928 and latest Canadian edition of 1962) the Christian Year is effectively divided into two parts, from Advent to Trinity Sunday and from the First Sunday after Trinity Sunday to the last Sunday before Advent Sunday. Not without good reason is Trinity Sunday the mid-point of the Year, the climax of the first half and the beginning of the second half. It is the Festival which celebrates the living LORD God, who is the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost (Three Persons, One God: A Unity in Trinity and a Trinity in Unity).
In the Christmas Festival, the Church celebrates the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity, who was sent by the First Person (the Father) and in his humanity conceived by the Third Person (the Holy Ghost). In the Easter Festival, the Church celebrates the bodily Resurrection from the dead of the Incarnate Second Person (Jesus Christ) – raised by the Father through the presence and power of the Holy Ghost. And in the Whitsuntide Festival, the Church celebrates the descent of the Holy Ghost, as the Paraclete (Advocate & Counselor) of the Son, upon the assembled disciples – here the Father and the Son send to the Church the Holy Ghost, who bears the name, virtues and gifts of the ascended Incarnate Son.
In the Ministry of Jesus Christ there is revealed and there is active in revelation and salvation the Trinity, the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, and thus it is most fitting that the Church celebrates God as the LORD [YHWH, I AM THAT I AM] who is God as the Holy Trinity, after the celebration of these festivals and before it begins the second half of the Year.
Regrettably and tragically many Christians give the impression of thinking that “the Trinity” is a bit of doctrinal speculation which the Church has previously engaged in and which is now merely window-dressing and thus not part of the basics of Christianity. Thus they think that IT can be modified or changed to suit cultural sensitivities on earth – thus, for example, “Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier” and “Parent, Child and Spirit” are found in progressive circles.
In truth and in fact, “The Trinity,” is nothing less than the Christian Name of the LORD our God, the Name that the Early Church gave to the God whom they worshipped and served. There is a doctrine of “the Trinity” (for example as clearly stated in The Athanasian Creed) ; but the Trinity as a Name, is the Christian Name for God. Jesus commanded his disciples to baptize converts “in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.” The Early Church baptized converts in the Name of the Trinity when they baptized them “in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.” The Bishop blesses in the Name of the Trinity when he says: “The Blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost be amongst you and remain with you always.”
So Trinity Sunday is the Sunday when the Church celebrates “the Trinity”; that is, the Church names the one God as the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, and worships the Father, through the Son and with/by the Holy Ghost. That is, the Church knows and adores the One LORD who is the Trinity in Unity and the Unity in Trinity.
The late Professor Eric Mascall, a distinguished British theologian, and my tutor for three years, put it this way:
If Christianity is true, the Trinity is not a doctrine; the Trinity is God. And the fact that God is Trinity – that in some deep mysterious sense thee are three divine Persons eternally united in one Life of complete perfection and beatitude – is not a piece of mystification thrust by dictatorial theologians down the throats of an unwilling but helpless laity; and therefore to be accepted, if at all, only with reluctance and discontent. It is the secret of God’s intimate life, into which, in his infinite love and generosity, he has admitted us; and it is therefore to be accepted with amazed and exultant thankfulness.
And he added:
The fact of the Trinity means that the world and human beings depend for their existence from moment to moment upon the unfailing creative activity of a personal Being of unimaginable splendor, bliss and love. I have said “a personal Being” and not “a Person”, only for this reason: that, if Christianity is true, God is not one Person but three Persons, united in one life of perfect mutual giving and receiving, a giving and receiving that is so complete that there is nothing to distinguish One from Another except the ways in which Each gives and receives from the Others; a life of sharing so perfect that the most intimate of human unions bears only the remotest comparison to it. (The Christian Universe, pp.51-52)
The TRINITY is the Christian Name for the God of Abraham, the God of Elijah, the God of David, and the God who is revealed in the Person and Ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. Christians adore, worship and serve the One, Holy, Blessed and Undivided Trinity, of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.
Of course, the Name of The Trinity could only have come into use after the exaltation of the Lord Jesus Christ to the Father’s right hand, the descent of the Holy Ghost at the Feast of Pentecost, and time for the mind of the Church to be illumined by the same Holy Ghost so that clarity was achieved and error rejected. What was clear to the first apostles and disciples from the first was that there was a divine descent (as we may call it) from the Father through the Son and by the Holy Ghost, and that by and in this descent there occurred what we call creation, revelation, Incarnation, salvation, reconciliation and redemption. At the same time there was an ascent (as we may call it) to the Father by the resurrected Incarnate Son, and by the Holy Ghost in the worship, prayer, service and eventual bodily resurrection of the people of God. The apostolic and catholic Church knew the Father to be God; the Incarnate Son to be God; the Holy Ghost as the Paraclete to be God; and yet they knew that there is only One true and living God – The Lord our God is one LORD! Therefore they knew God as The Trinity.
So let us adore, worship and serve the Blessed, Holy and Undivided Trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, One God.
Blessed be the kingdom of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost: as it was in the beginning, is now, and shall be for ever, even unto ages of ages. Amen.
(See further for a full study of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, Our Triune God, by Peter Toon, Regent College Publishing, Vancouver, Canada; and for help in praying as a Trinitarian Christian visit www.anglicansatprayer.org )
The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon MA., D.Phil (Oxford)
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
[The Prayer Book Society is delighted to announce its publication through its Preservation Press in the early Fall of 2006 of a new edition of The Homilies, comprising two books of sermons authorized and appointed to be read in English churches in the sixteenth century and since within “The Order for Holy Communion.” What follows is an introduction to these two books written by the Editor, the distinguished English scholar, Ian Robinson, and edited for this communication by Peter Toon.]
During the first century of her separation from Rome, three English books were of supreme importance to the Church of England. The first, in a sense embracing the other two, was the English Bible, which from 1539, still in the reign of Henry VIII, was given royal sanction, so that versions close to Tyndale’s could be freely read (if only chained in churches) throughout the land.
The second, the Book of Common Prayer, had to wait for the death of King Henry, who was far too reactionary a theologian to have countenanced it. These two books, in the form of the 1611 Bible, in direct descent from Tyndale, and the 1662 revision of the Prayer Book (with the Articles of Religion and the Ordinal usually bound in the one volume), are still in daily use.
The third member of the triad, the Homilies, appeared in 1547, and went through two major expansions as well as many minor revisions in numerous editions, between then and 1623, after which there were many reprints.
Archbishop Thomas Cranmer had much to do with all three books. The need for the Homilies must have been urgently felt by Cranmer’s generation, not excluding his anti-Reformation episcopal colleagues. The Prayer Book gave to the whole people (for Church attendance was at least in theory compulsory) in their own language, the liturgy of the Church, and forms of service to cover the major events of life, from baptism, by way of marriage, to burial. But a reliable and standard exposition of the Christian way, to be heard by all the people, was thought so urgently necessary that it preceded the first Prayer Book by two years.
Sermons to be read
The Homilies differ from both earlier and later collections in their effort at complete coverage of essential Christian doctrine and life, and in their authority. In the near-century before the Civil War they were “appointed to be read in churches.” By Royal Injunction of July 1547, one of the Homilies was to be read every Sunday. Their authority is stated in Article XXXV as “a godly and wholesome doctrine, and necessary for these times.” They are therefore “to be read in Churches by the Ministers, diligently and distinctly, that they may be understanded of the people.” The 1801 edition of The Thirty-Nine Articles of the Episcopal Church of the United States of America reaffirmed the Article “so far as it declares the Books of Homilies to be an explication of Christian doctrine and instructive to piety and morals”, though it discontinued the instruction that they be read in churches, and “all references to the constitution and laws of England are considered as inapplicable.” In modern times it is unusual to hear one of the Homilies read in place of a sermon, but wherever the Anglican Way has gone and the Articles have been received as a Formulary in the new Province, the two Book of Homilies have naturally been included. So, for example, they are now part of the Standards of Faith of Anglican Churches in West and East Africa, from Nigeria to Uganda.
A move had been made in 1542, during the lifetime of King Henry VIII, to issue an authorized volume of homilies, but nothing came of it, perhaps because of the King’s rooted hostility to the doctrines of the Reformation. Under the new king Edward VI, a great need was still felt for the Christian way to be expounded to the people. The parish priests could not always be relied upon to do so, and those who were capable were not all in line with the reformed doctrines. Not all parish priests in the reigns of the protestant Tudors were licensed to preach. Usually a university degree, which in those days meant Oxford or Cambridge, was required. Where original preaching was not possible, the Homilies were to be used, according to the rubric still found in the Communion service of the Book of Common Prayer: Then shall follow the Sermon, or one of the Homilies already set forth, or hereafter to be set forth, by authority. The likelihood must be that Shakespeare heard a part of one the Homilies much more often than he heard a sermon.
The first Book of Homilies was published only six months after the death of Henry VIII, in the summer of 1547, which must mean that plans if not texts had already been made before Henry’s death. No documentary evidence is known to survive of the details of compilation and editing, but it is probable that Archbishop Thomas Cranmer was the editor, as well as himself the author of three of the most theological Homilies (of Salvation, Faith and Good Works).The Homily on Charity is known to be by Bishop Bonner, one of the principal ecclesiastical opponents of Cranmer.
The aim of the first Book of Homilies was surely to present, as far as practicable, agreed Christian doctrine, and if an author could be included from the anti-Reformation camp, it was thereby demonstrated that about something as important as the understanding of Christian love there was no difference between the evangelicals, as they were known, and their conservative opponents. During the Roman reaction under Mary I all copies of the Homilies were ordered to be destroyed, but the survival of so many shows that the destruction was far from complete.
The second Book, said to have been supervised by John Jewel, Bishop of Salisbury, first appeared in 1562, fulfilling a promise made at the end of the first Book to treat subjects it did not cover. The two volumes went on being printed separately for many years. In 1570, the year after the Northern Rising, “the Homily against Disobedience and Wilful Rebellion” appeared separately and in 1571 was added to the second Book. From 1582, so as to facilitate binding in one volume, the two Books were sometimes printed uniformly, and in 1623, the most recent edition to be issued on authority, they were at last published as one volume.
The urgency behind the Homilies is not hard to understand. It is certainly untrue that there was no preaching in the Middle Ages, but equally, a new emphasis on preaching came in with the Reformation. The Bible is the Word of God, but it is necessary to expound the Bible, to explain how it can save. The Book of Common Prayer is itself a kind of résumé of the Bible and in fact includes it, except for some of the Apocrypha, by way of the lections. The Homilies make a fitting complement to the Book of Common Prayer in their expounding of Biblical doctrine, and in their range. They have a solid theological core, and explain salvation through grace by faith in language comprehensible to the ordinary worshipper but without oversimplification; there is subtlety as well as clarity in the reconciliation of Paul and James. And they inherit from the Middle Ages a determination to impart moral doctrine, moral in the widest sense of how to walk in the Christian way; and they go into practical detail. The Homilies are “evangelical” in their theology but very characteristic of the Church of England of the sixteenth century in a catholic range of reference.
The text for this new edition is not edited from original editions but revised from that of John Griffiths, Oxford, 1859. Though it is a long time since Griffiths did his work, his excellent edition is still unlikely to be superseded, and he established his text with such immense care that in the present edition only two typographical errors have been corrected. The present edition follows Griffiths in using modern spelling but reproducing proper names in their sixteenth-century forms.
[The new edition has been printed in England as a hardback. It is xviii+436 pp large royal 8vo (= approx. in inches 6 x 9) and is well bound in green buckram. It will be available in early September 2006 for $45.00 per copy, plus $5.00 postage, total $50.00. Supply is limited. Think of buying one as a Christmas present for a Minister, a college or seminary student since it is a primary text for several disciplines – including English history, the origins of modern English prose, and Anglican theology. Please send a check to the Prayer Book Society in Philadelphia anytime to place an order ( P.O. Box 35220, Philadlephia PA. 19128-0220) ; or buy it on line from mid-September at www.anglicanmarketplace.com when it is actually in stock and listed there. Libraries and bookshops send orders to the P.O. Box, and if in difficulties call 1-800-727-1928. In the UK and outside North America visit www.edgewaysbooks.com to order]
The Rev’d Dr. Peter Toon MA., D.Phil (Oxford)
One important word much used in Christian discourse until the mid-20th century, but now virtually absent from it, is the expression “fear of God” or “fear of the Lord.” When did you last hear a sermon on this topic, and how often, if at all, does the expression, or one synonymous with it, occur in modern liturgy and in modern extempore and charismatic services?
The way that the Bible has been understood over the centuries – until apparently recent times – is that it is impossible either to worship God or to love God, unless there is first the fear of God in the soul. For, as the Psalter and the Proverbs declare: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom….and of knowledge.” Without experiencing the fear of the LORD, the one true and living God, it is impossible to know him, to worship him, to love him and to keep his commandments.
The prophecy concerning the coming Messiah in Isaiah 11 declares: “The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD, and his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.” The Messiah’s delight shall be in the fear of the LORD!
In the Letter to the Hebrews we read of Jesus the Messiah: “In the days of his flesh Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him [the Father] who was able to save him from death, and he was heard for his godly fear” (Heb.5:7). Jesus was heard for his godly fear.
The Blessed Virgin Mary in her Magnificat declared of the LORD that “his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation” (Luke 1:50). God’s mercy rests on those who fear him.
In the Letters of St Paul the fear of the Lord is presented as a necessary component of the Christian walk with God. “Since we have these promises [from God], beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, making holiness perfect in the fear of God” (II.Cor.7:1). Holiness is made perfect in the fear of God.
Addressing baptized Christians as exiled from their true home in heaven, St Peter urges them to “conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile” (1:17). Fear of the Lord is a necessary part of the life and attitude of pilgrims.
In the worship of heaven, the angels and archangels with redeemed humanity fear the LORD, the Holy Trinity. The angel with the eternal gospel cried with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him the glory….” (14:7); and singing the Song of the Lamb the heavenly choir say, “O king of the ages! Who shall not fear and glorify thy name?” (15:5), Further, the redeemed are identified as those who fear God, when they are urged by a voice from the throne, “Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, small and great” (19:5). In heaven the fear of God is necessary and perfected.
So it would appear that all baptized Christians are called to be, and must be, if they are to worship, love and serve God the Father aright, “God-fearing persons.” This is truly a filial fear, the fear of both God’s adopted daughters and his sons.
The fear of God obviously includes a dread of his wrath and judgment against sin. This basic fear can never be eliminated this side of the Great Judgment at the end of the age! Nor would the godly want it to be removed! But more often in the O.T. and the N.T. fear refers to the sense of awe, reverence, amazement, and abasement in the mind and heart, as the forgiven sinner stands before the purity of holiness and righteousness of the Majesty of God the LORD. Only with this attitude governing his relation to the Father through the Son, will he be able – in biblical terms – truly to worship, truly to love and truly to obey the Lord, for the fear of the Lord is truly the beginning of wisdom (perceiving what God requires) and of knowledge (of who is God and what he has revealed). If we know God we must know him in the matchless glory of his transcendent majesty, and the only appropriate posture for us before him is prostration before him in awe, reverence and humble adoration, for his Name is glorious and fearful (Deut. 28:58).
Certainly “perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18) but this kind of fear is not the fear of the Lord but fear of torment, and such fear is removed by the indwelling presence of the Holy Ghost.
One obvious reason why the genuine fear of God is missing in modern piety and devotion is that God has been, as it were, domesticated. He is seen more as the everywhere-present “Father-God” and “Loving God” whose presence his children may always feel. He has been brought down from the Throne of His Majesty to dwell most of his time on earth. So the fear of the Lord has been replaced by “feeling good” and “being affirmed” and knowing one’s “self-worth and dignity” through “self-realization.” The Rite II liturgies, and their successors in The Episcopal Church, are such that their effect, in the context of the general lack of a sense of the transcendent glory of the LORD in culture of church, is to eliminate “the fear of the Lord” as a necessary affection and motion of the soul. Thus the “the fear of God” is rarely to be seen in contemporary piety, be it that of the “progressives” or the “orthodox.” Instead, “celebration” has become the key aspect for all.
In general, it would seem, modern Christians have so engaged in dumbing-down of doctrine and piety, devotion and liturgy, that they have lost that necessary ingredient of pure religion which is “the fear of the LORD.” Let us not forget that true saints on earth love and fear God and they do not cease when they are promoted to the heavenly Jerusalem, for there also Jesus in his sacred, perfect humanity, leads the heavenly host in the fear, worship and love of the Father, by the Holy Ghost!
The Rev’d Dr. Peter Toon MA., D.Phil (Oxford)
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
A favorite text used over the centuries by godly people to describe the experience of prayerful meditation before the Lord with his Word was:
“My heart was hot within me, and while I was thus musing the fire kindled: and at the last I spake with my tongue, ‘LORD let me know mine end…’” [Psalm 39:3, from The Book of Common Prayer, 1662, cf. the KJV]
This translation has a distinct relation to the Vulgate [Latin] version of the Psalm used in medieval and early modern Europe in thousands of monasteries, convents and churches.
Why did this particular text seem to describe the felt experience of those who, in what was called the lectio divina, spent time in quiet before the Lord to ponder and pray over what they had heard/read in and memorized from the lectio continua [the continuous reading of the Bible and chanting of the Psalter] of the daily routine of the daily offices?
To answer the question requires that we explore what those seriously committed to daily meditation believed they were doing.
First of all, they placed themselves in the presence of God, confessed their sins and asked for grace and inspiration. Then from memory (perhaps assisted by the reading of a text) they recalled some particular Word of the Lord heard and read earlier. Using their powers of imagination, they pictured the original scene from which the Word came. At the same time with their reason and intellect they sought to understand it by approaching it from various angles and with differing questions. Then they sought by the truths of the Word of God to raise their affections – their desire, hope, love, and joy – towards God the Father through Jesus Christ. Here they often experienced the inner warmth, glow, of the witness of the Holy Spirit with their spirit. That is, the fire kindled as they mused and raised their souls towards God. And with the fire kindled and the heart warmed, their will was directed aright; and they were prepared to make resolutions and commitments to the Lord and engage in genuine prayer, where they knew that they were in touch with God the Father through Jesus the Lord and by the Holy Spirit.
The underlying belief was this: the whole soul has been and remains affected by the disease of sin and this is seen most clearly in the affections and the will, together with the imagination. Thus in meditation, the whole soul (memory, intellect, imagination, affections and will) is to be engaged in the presence of God with this Word; further, for there to be the real possibility of engagement with God and his truth, the raising of the affections has to proceed from consideration of, and pondering over, the Word and Truth of God.
The rule was not to begin with the affections since, for most people, the emotions can be as wild horses and not easily controllable! They need to informed, warmed and guided by the Word of the Lord before directed to embrace the Lord. “While I was thus musing [considering, reflecting and thinking about God’s revealed Word] the fire kindled” and I was alive before God, ready to converse with him!
Only when the whole soul is joined through its spirit, by the Holy Spirit, to the Father through the One Mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ, can there be real and true communion, in which praise, thanksgiving and petitionary and intercessory prayer can be offered.
When the meditation becomes genuine prayer to God and there is spiritual union and communion, then it may be said that meditation has become contemplative prayer; the whole soul is now focused on God and as it were gripped by the knowledge and sense of him. Then there is real spiritual worship and adoration.
This move from consideration to contemplation can occur also in the context of congregational worship. In this experience the person/soul loses all sense of the importance of self and becomes absorbed with the glory and the beauty of God, for God’s sake. And for a while, it may seem as though time has ceased, or that there is no time, only eternity.
The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon MA., D.Phil (Oxford)
Monday, August 28, 2006
A contemporary form of the Three Ordination Services from The Ordinal bound together with The Book of Common Prayer (USA 1928) is now at www.anglicansatprayer.org
for more on the topic of ordination, and differences between the English and American editions of the Ordinal -- read on…
If you compare and contrast “The Form of Ordaining and Consecrating of an Archbishop or Bishop” in the Ordinal printed at the back of The Book of Common Prayer of 1662 with the equivalent service at the back of the American 1928 edition of the Prayer Book, you find various differences. This is not surprising in that the American edition of the classic Anglican Prayer Book never completely followed the text of the original Church of England text, sometimes for obvious reasons (Republic not Monarchy) and at other times for less obvious (e.g., latitudinarianism).
In the Ordinal there is no promise of obedience by a newly ordained Bishop to the Archbishop of the Province, because The Protestant Episcopal Church never had Archbishops. Its Presiding Bishop was usually the senior Bishop in the House and not until very recently was the Office of Presiding Bishop made into a full-time job with no diocesan responsibility and also with the title of Primate!
Also, there is what appears to be a minor change in the call by the Presiding Bishop to the congregation to pray for the Bishop-elect.
In the 1662 (and Canadian 1962) text we read:
Brethren, it is written in the Gospel of Saint Luke, that our Saviour Christ continued the whole night in prayer, before he did choose and send forth his twelve Apostles. It is also written in the Acts of the Apostles, that the disciples who were at Antioch did fast and pray before they laid hands on Paul and Barnabas and sent them forth. Let us therefore,…
In the 1928 (& 1892) USA text we read:
Brethren, it is written in the Gospel of Saint Luke, that our Saviour Christ continued the whole night in prayer, before he chose and sent forth his twelve Apostles. It is written also, that the holy Apostles prayed before they ordained Matthias to be of the number of the Twelve, Let us, therefore,…
Note that the example from Acts 13 has been dropped and the example from Acts 1 has been included. Why? Because, I think, the purpose was to claim that the Bishops were truly successors of the Apostles (in some not here defined way) and not of semi-Apostles like Barnabas! Further, the Acts 1 account is Apostles ordaining Apostle but this is not so in Acts 13!
Since this change occurred in the first American edition of the Ordinal (1792), we are most probably to see the influence of Samuel Seabury, the Church in Connecticut and the High Church (Tory) party. We need also to recall that a century later the House of Bishops of The Protestant Episcopal Church also officially strengthened the received Anglican doctrine of the Episcopate for its own Province by the famous statement from Chicago in 1888 known as The Quadrilateral. In this it is declared that an essential for unity of denominations is “The Historic Episcopate, locally adapted in the methods of its administration to the varying needs of the nations and peoples call of God into the unity of His Church.”
It has often been observed that the original Ordinal of the Church of England left open various possibilities of the origin of the Threefold Ministry and its precise relation to the apostolic age. One question, often debated in the past, is whether the Episcopate is of the bene esse, the plene esse or the esse of the Church through space and time. By the Chicago Quadrilateral (later approved by the Conference - not Synod - of Bishops assembled at the Lambeth Conference) the Protestant Episcopal Church had virtually outlawed the bene esse approach (which had been and is very widely held by Anglicans) by insisting that the Episcopate was truly necessary for either the fullness of being or the very being of the Church. That is, the Church either is only really the Church when it has the Episcopate or is only the Church when it has the Episcopate (what does this approach do to the millions of Baptists, Methodists etc. in the U.S.A.?).
The Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral has of course no force in any province other than the American unless that province has actually adopted it by synodical action. Thus a majority of Anglicans worldwide still hold to the bene esse or at strongest the plene esse view of the Episcopate! The esse is seen as Roman Catholic or Orthodox in most places.
However, the strong temptation in the USA, in the competitiveness of the massive religious supermarket, is for the zealous in Episcopal Churches to claim that the Episcopate is either absolutely or very nearly absolutely necessary for there to be real and true, valid and efficacious, means of grace, sacraments and salvation. Anglicans in other lands where the competition is not so diverse and fierce can highly value the Episcopate without make it absolutely necessary!
Regrettably, if I understand the document aright, the recent (mid August) proposed theological basis of the Common Cause of the A C Network, includes a commitment to what appears to be the doctrine that the Episcopate is certainly of plene esse of the Church and maybe of the esse! If so, it excludes most Anglicans worldwide today and excludes the millions of evangelical Anglicans who have been faithful Anglicans over the generations! It reads:
“We confess the godly historic Episcopate as an inherent part of the apostolic faith and practice, and therefore as integral to the fullness and unity of the Body of Christ.”
This of course puts a particular spin on the 1662 Ordinal (which this Confession accepts) and prohibits the comprehensiveness that has always been part of the genius of the Anglican Way!
August 28, 2006
The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon MA., D.Phil (Oxford)
Sunday, August 27, 2006
What it means to be a member of the One Body of Christ that is of heaven and of earth.
The official doctrine of both the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches with respect to the Saints, who are said to enjoy with the exalted Christ the glory of heaven, includes the practices of both Invocation (prayer to the Saints individually and corporately) and Comprecation (prayer to God that he would cause the saints to intercede for people on earth). In contrast, the official doctrine of the Anglican Way, contained in the Formularies, certainly forbids such Invocation and probably also forbids Comprecation.
Just to be clear, to make this statement is not to say that:
- All Roman Catholics actually practice the Invocation of Saints and no Anglicans do so (for many R.C’s do not invoke the saints and some Anglicans do invoke them).
- The Invocation of Saints and Comprecation to God are apostolic in origin for they are not. In fact one has to go several centuries from the time of the apostles in order to see the beginnings of this kind of thinking and devotion.
- The Church is divided into two, for even though (until the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ to earth) it exists as the Church triumphant and the Church militant (or Church militant, expectant and triumphant), it is always catholic (compassing heaven and earth). There is One Body of Christ with members who are pilgrims in this world or on the other side of physical death, in actual glory or being prepared for such.
- There was no prayer for the faithful departed made by faithful Christians in the early Church, for there was, but this is a different topic to Invocation of Saints.
But it is to state that there is a clear difference between the official doctrine and practice of the Churches of the Anglican Way and those of the Roman and Orthodox Ways on the matter of relations with, and prayer to, those who are deemed to be in heaven with Christ as his Saints.
This difference (and here specifically with respect to Roman Catholicism) is stated with clarity in Article XXII (of The Thirty-Nine Articles); but, it is also demonstrated by the fact that in the first edition of The Book of Common Prayer (1549) the Church of England did not provide any opportunity or basis to invoke the Saints (which practice had been exceedingly common in the medieval period and was allowed in the Litany of 1544). Article XXII reads:
The Romish doctrine concerning purgatory, pardons, worshipping and adoration as well of images as of reliques, and also the invocation of saints, is a fond thing vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God.
This may be rendered into modern English in this way:
The Roman Catholic teaching about purgatory, pardons, the worship and adoration of images and relics, and also the practice of praying to saints, is a futile deception, which, far from being grounded in Scripture, is repugnant to the Word of God.
Here several things are linked together under the general heading of purgatory and in the collection is “the practice of praying to the saints.” which is said to be neither found in Holy Scripture nor agreeable to its teaching.
In the medieval Church invoking the saints was exceedingly common and involved both asking the Virgin Mary or some other Saint for specific gifts or blessings and also a general or specific request for prayer for the petitioner or another person. Then in the Mass there was the sense of communion with all the Saints “through whose merits and prayers, grant that we may in all things be defended by the help of Thy protection.”
The Reformers looked at this doctrine and practice, as far as they were able, from the perspective of the teaching of the Bible and the teaching and practice of the Early Church of the first few centuries; and they were surely right to conclude that one cannot justify invocation of the BVM and the saints simply from the Canon of Holy Scripture or the evidence from Early Church writers before circa A.D. 400 at least. One has to look to “sacred tradition” as it developed and also believe in development of doctrine in order to find justification for it.
Now it is true that some Anglican theologians, usually of the Anglo-Catholic School, have sought to interpret Article XXII in such a manner as that it is seen as only forbidding asking the BVM and Saints for gifts and blessings and thus not prohibiting specific petition which asks for the prayers of the Saint to be made on the suppliant’s behalf to God the Father. It maybe observed that while making such a distinction may be helpful in a general discussion of the topic, the testimony of the Formularies is that neither form of Invocation is permissible. (See, e.g., the Collects for Saints’ days in the BCP and compare them with the Latin originals to notice how the Invocation to each Saint is removed.)
While most Anglo-Catholic students of the Formularies have recognized that all forms of Invocation of the Saints are actually prohibited by them, some have argued that what is allowed by them is that which is known as Comprecation. Here is what one writer stated in the 1920s when there was learned debate on these matters in the Church of England:
If we yearn for the intercession of the great saints whose prayer undoubtedly “availeth much” with God (cf. James 5:16 ), we can always ask God that, if it be his will, he would make our need known to them that they may offer their prayer on our behalf. This practice, known as comprecation, is both more ancient than Invocation and absolutely unobjectionable.
Again, the problem is that there is no trace in Holy Scripture of this practice and likewise it is not known in the Early Church. Recognizing this, some have argued for its legitimacy on the basis of the creedal statement “I believe in the communion of saints” but again this deduction does not prove any scriptural basis.
What the Reformers of the sixteenth century believed and felt intensely was the unique mediatorial role of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life. Through him and with him and in him, the Body of Christ prays to the Father in the strength of the Holy Spirit; likewise each individual Christian offers his prayer to the Father in the Name of the Lord Jesus his Savior. At the same time, God is to be praised and thanked for the “Saints” for they leave us an example to follow in our discipleship.
Looking at this matter rationally we could argue thus -- If it be the case (and we do not know that it is and will never know) that some of the faithful departed (those we call “Saints”) are given supernatural knowledge and insight, not only to view what is going on in the world, but also to know the genuine desires and longings of the baptized Christian people who are pilgrims and aliens on earth (and with them members of the Body of Christ), then we should expect them to be doing whatever they can for their brethren on earth – including interceding for them – without being asked to do so! For charity does not wait to be asked! Thus, the spiritual energy of the individual believer and the congregations of Christ’s flock on earth should be focused on relating to God the Father, the “Our Father who art in heaven,” and on his Incarnate Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, the one and only Mediator between God and man! Why ask the servant when you have access to the Master?
One warning that has been made consistently and continually since the sixteenth century in the Anglican Way and elsewhere is that it is a small move from invoking a Saint to deifying a Saint, just as it is a small move from venerating an icon, image, or statue to worshipping the same as having divine quality.
It would appear that a major key to this debate is that of having the spiritual discernment and maturity to be able to have a real and living sense of the Church as Catholic in the fullest sense – not only of being universal but also of embracing heaven and earth; of pilgrims on earth and residents of the heavenly Jerusalem. Can one have that profound sense of the unity of the Body of Christ, not only in space and time but also in space and time AND eternity, without the need for an apparatus (e.g., venerating icons and invoking the saints they represent) to support and make practical that unity of Head and members? The Anglican Way says that one can and ought to have this by the gift of faith which works through spiritual discernment without need of an apparatus – however holy it is, while the Roman Catholic Way says that the apparatus is both desirable and needed for the mature as well as for the beginner.
August 26, 2006
See further my just published The Anglican Formularies and Holy Scripture (http://www.anglicanmarketplace.com/ or 1 800 727 1928)
The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon MA., D.Phil (Oxford)
Why? Because, amongst many other things, you will find there a growing collection of historic liturgies rendered into “contemporary English.” The original rites/texts are in The Book of Common Prayer in its three editions used in North America – the original 1662, then the American (1789-1928) and then Canadian (1662-1962). The renderings into “contemporary English” are not intended to be a final text for immediate use, but a kind of preliminary entrance into the richness of the classic Common Prayer Tradition of doctrine and devotion. Recent generations have been prevented through over-use of modern liturgies from experiencing the historic and classical form of Basic and Applied Christianity known as The Anglican Way and as Reformed Catholicism. Here is a chance to experience what has been missed.
Also at this site is a growing collection of meditation and prayers for to assist in the renewal of the Anglican Way in North America – some are in traditional and others in contemporary English, but all conform to the law of prayer of the Anglican Common Prayer Tradition, as that is richly embedded in the Bible.
If you wish to understand The Reformed Catholic Faith which is expressed in the Anglican Common Prayer Tradition, and you do not have time to read a substantial book, then please either call 1-800-727-1928 or visit www.anglicanmarketplace.com in order to purchase the (hot from the press) 64 page booklet entitled, The Anglican Formularies and Holy Scripture: Reformed Catholicism and Biblical Doctrine, by Dr Peter Toon, President of the Prayer Book Society of the USA.
If you want to study in depth and detail this topic do obtain from www.anglicanmarketplace.com CDs on which in digital form, pdf., are multiple first-class books on the Worship and Doctrine of the Anglican Way from its leading theologians.
The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon MA., D.Phil (Oxford)
Friday, August 25, 2006
For example, if they were first High Church and then Evangelical they called themselves Evangelical High Church (using Evangelical as the adjective); and if they were Evangelical first and then also High Church, they called themselves High-Church Evangelicals (using High-Church as the adjective). Obviously these people self-consciously wanted to be the heirs not only of worship, doctrine and discipline of the sixteenth century Church of England but also of the seventeenth century as well. They wanted the powerful clarity of the Reformers of the sixteenth and the studied depth of the Caroline divines of the seventeenth along with the devotion of High Church bishops and the fervor of evangelical preachers of later centuries.
They were thus staunch defenders of the Reformed Catholic nature of the Church of England and saw it in primary ways as distinct from, and different to, the Church of Rome – a different branch from the same tree. So they happily subscribed to the received Formularies of the Church of England and at the same time opposed those innovations of the new Anglo-Catholics which were directly in contradiction to the plain teaching of the Formularies (BCP, Ordinal and Thirty-Nine Articles).[See further my book which describes the response and theological answer to Tractarian doctrine – Evangelical Theology: A Response to Tractarianism, 1833-1856(John Knox Press USA, 1979) ]
The terms (Evangelical High Church and High-Church Evangelical) never became common and are used only occasionally after the middle of the nineteenth century. However, this does not mean to say that the descriptions have not well fitted many faithful Anglicans over the centuries and do so still. Those called “Prayer-Book Catholics” were often really “High-Church Evangelicals!
Since I first read Evangelical divinity and then later the works of the Caroline Divines and great High Churchmen of later centuries, I call myself – if pressed – an Evangelical High Churchman, but I am happy to use the other title, for when I am thinking theologically these days I probably begin from Hooker and the Caroline divines. (Though I find much of great value in anglo-catholic theologians and was taught by several distinguished ones whom I deeply respect, I cannot see how in the final analysis their principles do not actually take them into the Roman Church or into Orthodoxy, especially when they use weekly the modern Roman Rite or the substance of the Tridentine Roman Rite in English.)
It was in this mindset and spirit of High Church Evangelical churchmanship that in 2006 I wrote two booklets each of 64 pages and 25,000 words, (1) Episcopal Innovations, 1960-2005 (the doctrinal innovations pursued in The Episcopal Church as it rejected basic doctrinal standards of the Anglican Way); and (2) The Anglican Formularies and Holy Scripture: Reformed Catholicism and Biblical Doctrine. In this I tried to help us all recognize the identity and importance of these Formularies (the classic BCP, Ordinal and Articles), which were most regrettably rejected by The Episcopal Church in the late 1970s. I also attempted to state with clarity their relation to the primary authority of the Holy Scripture for Faith and Morality.
The second Booklet comes available in the USA by August 28th 2006 and the first is already published and has been widely read: visit www.anglicanmarketplace.com for single copies and for several or bulk orders of either booklet call 1-800-727-1928.The Booklet on Anglican Formularies will be available from www.edgewaysbooks.com in the UK from mid-October.
In order to help churchmen today appreciate the Formularies, the Prayer Book Society has issued a set of CDs in pdf and which contain major commentaries by well-known authors, mostly of the C. of E., on the Prayer Book, Articles and Ordinal – visit www.anglicanmarketplace.com for details.
Do also visit www.pbsusa.org and www.anglicansatprayer.org
Thanks a lot.
The Rev’d Dr Peter Toon St Bartholomew’s Day, 2006
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Behold, how good and pleasant it is
When brothers dwell together in unity!
The Psalm begins with the citing of a proverb: “See how good and how lovely it is! Brothers living together even as one.” It arises in a social situation which does not exist in western countries today and which, from within modern individualism, we find difficult to envisage. Yet it is still found in other places of the world, in the Middle East, Asia and Africa, for example. That is, a society based upon the solidarity of the extended family and of the tribal unit, and with property held in common. Where this solidarity works well then it has been and remains very wholesome and sweet indeed. (See further, Deuteronomy 25:5-10 and Genesis 38.) David himself came from a large family and thus was very much integrated into the social structure assumed here.
Two metaphors are used by David to lift this proverb from the ideal of basic family and tribal cohesion to the communion, fellowship and unity of those who gather together before God to worship him in the sanctuary.
It is like the precious oil upon the head,
Running down upon the beard,
Upon the beard of Aaron,
Running down to the collar of his robes.
The indescribably good feeling of genuine fellowship of heart and mind before God is first of all presented as like the rich oil of unction (with its accompanying fragrance) not only upon the head but overflowing on to the beard of the high priest, Aaron, down to the very collar of his high priestly vestments (see for details of the ceremony Exodus 29:7, 21; Leviticus 8:12; & Exodus 30:22-33). We are to understand by this picture the differentiation of the priest and the robes and also, at the same time, the unifying reality of the oil and its fragrance covering priest and robes.
It is like the dew of Hermon,
Which falls on the mountains of Zion!
The picture here is of the heavy dews of Mt Hermon bringing moisture to the thirsty lands below it, and being extended, to cover the smaller hills of Mt Zion. This is a picture of the abundant blessings of the LORD coming “from above” to his people on earth, specifically as gathered together in the Temple of Jerusalem, and united by his gracious favors.
The second half of verse 3 , with its emphasis upon the initiative of God himself (“the LORD commanded”) and on what is only his to give (“life for evermore”) also underlines what has been communicated earlier by a threefold repetition, partly lost in most translations: literally, “descending” (2a)… “descending” (2b)…”descending” (3a). That is, true unity of God’s people is from above, bestowed rather than contrived, and a blessing rather than an achievement.
For there the LORD has commanded the blessing,
Life for evermore.
Recalling that David is the writer, and that “there” is Jerusalem, where Israel met in God’s courts and where heaven and earth united, we cannot avoid noting that it was also “there” (2 Samuel 11:1) that the same David was to bring that discord which would spread throughout the whole land and kingdom. Where there is the possibility of great blessing and unity, there is also the possibility – due to human weakness and sinfulness – of great division.
Obviously this Psalm speaks to us at both the level of family life and of congregation and diocesan life. Broken and divided families – even nuclear families – are as common as united ones in our society. And divisions within the members of the Anglican Way are in North America regrettably notorious by being so common, even the “normal” state of affairs. That is, they simply follow the same pattern as found within the American “supermarket of religions” where pragmatism, opportunism, individualism and utilitarianism cause groups to do their own thing on their own, with little relation to others who are very similar and basically of the same faith and practice.
How urgently and how desperately do we who are Anglicans/Episcopalians and claim to be “orthodox” and “biblical” need to ponder this Psalm and then turn to the New Testament for its filling out and fulfillment – from Jesus (John 17); from Paul (Romans 12; Ephesians 4) and John (1 John) and Peter (1 Peter 2). God the Father through Christ the Lord and by the Holy Spirit gives the gift of unity and it is for us to accept it and work out what it means to be one in Christ, for after all there is One Baptism, One Lord, one Faith and One God and Father!
See further the essay/meditation on Unity.
Is Unity, not in Uniformity but in Comprehensiveness of churchmanship & style, possible in 2006 for Anglicans, both in America and world-wide?
A discussion starter from one who does not know the full answer!
The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon MA., D.Phil (Oxford)
All my recent short pieces (essays) with respect to the Seventh Ecumenical Council arose directly and then indirectly because of the content of the draft Confession of Faith proposed for the Common Cause of The Anglican Communion Network. They related to this specific situation and not to Nicaea II of 787 as a topic in and of itself. This draft Confession is intended to be one of the keys that opens the door into the Anglican Communion for this group of North American Episcopalians and Anglicans, for it is being submitted to overseas Archbishops (& provinces?). Thus I presumed it ought to be, and would be, truly Anglican in nature and content, keeping to basic and common ground and not merely speculative or excessive.
In this context I judged that its reference to the Seventh Council broke this rule of requiring only essentials by adding what was not absolutely necessary to add, and in so doing making the acceptance of the Statement by the majority “school” of the Communion, the conservative Evangelicals, difficult.
My basic point was simple. In the mother Church of the Anglican Communion, the Church of England, there is no subscription required by clergy to the doctrinal declaration of the Seventh Council (Nicaea II, 787) and it does not feature in any of her Formularies or canon law. It is conspicuous, as it were, by its absence. And the situation is much the same in the other thirty plus Provinces.
Now I am the first to state that individual theologians – e.g., a few in the 17th century from the Caroline divines and some Anglo-Catholics of the 19th and 20th centuries – have expressed their own private acceptance of the developed doctrine of the seventh council and commended it. However, the overwhelming testimony of Anglican theologians has been to state that the Church of England receives the dogmas of the Trinity and the Person of Christ from the first four Councils, together with the clarification of one of them, Christology, from the fifth and sixth. And there they have stopped. This readily conceded, the point stands that subscription to the doctrinal teaching of the Seventh Council is not required in the Anglican Way of the Anglican Communion of Churches.
(As a side-bar here, I am not sure where the claim by the AMiA and now the Common Cause that the Seventh Council also clarifies Christology comes from, for this Council simply receives the doctrine of the Person of Christ as previously taught in earlier Councils as a given and adds nothing to it, except – if you like – by saying that the truly orthodox will venerate an icon of Christ to prove that he holds that Christ has a human nature and that the doctrine of One Person made known in two natures, divine and human, is the truth. My guess is that the latter is not what they have in mind.)
This tradition of commitment primarily to the dogma from the first four Councils in the Church of England explains why in the university departments of divinity in England the old B.D degree (which I took years ago) had within its requirements, Early Church History and Early Church Doctrine to 451 (the date of the fourth Council). I do not recall any required courses going as far as 787, except in terms of special extra courses on late patristic and early medieval history, and then they did not stop at 787 but went on well after that point.
So on seeing the Common Cause statement several weeks ago I asked why, and I continue to ask (having seen the latest form of it from mid August): why does this group insist on including in its confession of faith that which is not included in the constitutions and formularies of the member Churches of the Anglican Communion. Why mention the Council at all? Why refer to it when there is no need to do so at all from a practical and historical standpoint? (There does not seem to be a strong lobby wishing to introduce the veneration of icons into churches and the invoking of saints into the liturgies of Common Cause churches; but perhaps there is a certain “Catholic” devotion around - even surprisingly in the REC and AMiA - which loves to speak of commitment to the Seven Ecumenical Councils in general and vague terms as kind of badge of “catholicity”.)
To date the only Anglican groups in the USA who have felt the necessity of including the Seventh Council without qualifications into their confession have been those tiny jurisdictions who call themselves the original Continuing Anglicans and who, in the main, are not within, or close to being within, the Common Cause of the Network. (See The St Louis Affirmation of Faith of 1977 for their adoption of seven councils and seven sacraments. And, at the same time, note that even in a jurisdiction such as the APCK today the seventh council’s teaching is not required doctrine at all.)
In the old days it was common to ask concerning the state of the question. To me it is one separate question whether the Seventh should be included in 2006 in its creed by the Network; and it is yet another question whether the doctrinal declaration of the Seventh on Veneration of Icons (with Invocation of Saints in the background) is true and could be made at a future date officially part of the formularies. In this matter of what the Communion Network OFFICIALLY believes, teaches and confesses, it is not only expedient but also wise to keep these questions totally apart, especially if the primary aim right now is to be seen as truly Anglican by the major players in the Anglican Communion.
firstname.lastname@example.org August 22, 2005
P.S. There are other aspects to the most recent draft of the Confession which cause grave concern and that that make it to be (a) lacking North American integrity and (b) difficult to accept by conservative Evangelicals throughout the world. First, amazingly there is no acceptance of the editions of the one Book of Common Prayer used in the USA and Canada, that is the 1662-1789-1928 USA and the 1662-1962 Canada editions. The Common Prayer Tradition in North America is seemingly rejected. And, secondly, the statement concerning bishops goes very far past the traditional position of the bene esse of the Church, held by virtually all leading conservative Evangelical theologians. It reads as though it came forth from one of the Anglo-Catholic Congresses in London a century ago.
Monday, August 21, 2006
Seeking not religion but the living God: Psalms for seeking God, the LORD, who is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit
For Episcopalians and Anglicans, who follow the religious news, there is much excitement at the present time, because of the varied events which may eventually lead to the possible break-up of the Anglican Communion of Churches and the formation of possible two Anglican Families, a traditional one and a progressively liberal one. In fact, there is so much going on in the USA and Canada, at Lambeth Palace and in meetings in Africa and elsewhere, that keeping up with all the news is a full time job!
One possible sad, even tragic, consequence of all this is that some of us – perhaps too many of us – are seeking after ecclesiastical news and insights as a form of religious quest, and are thereby leaving very little space and time in our lives for seeking after the Lord our God; who is the Blessed, Holy and Undivided Trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
One way that both the devil and our own fallen natures (‘the flesh”) lead us astray is to tell us that we are serving God by being involved in religious pursuits, even such as do not have the character of genuine good works, inspired by faith working through love for people. So one real temptation to which possibly too many of us have fallen is to think that time spent on following religious controversy can count as the equivalent of time spent seeking the presence of Father through the Lord Jesus Christ in the Spirit.
If this temptation has come our way only once, it is worth facing it and the possibility of more like it, by definite, spiritual discipline – meditating and praying with the Psalmist as he sought to be in the Presence of God in the Temple.
There are several Psalms which capture for us the profound desire of members of God’s covenant people to be with him and to feel and know his Presence. Of these we may mention Psalms 42, 43, 46, 48 and 84. As Christians we may pray these in, with and through Jesus Christ, who radiated in his manhood the Presence of God; and when we pray them, as within the Body of Christ, we ask that to us the glory of the Father shall be made known in the face of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.
Let us look at 42 with 43 and then 84.
Psalms 42 & 43
It is generally recognized that these two Psalms are in fact one lyric in which are three stanzas and a refrain (42:5, 11 & 43:5). The writer, a singer in the Temple, has been removed from Jerusalem and the Temple and is being detained many miles away from that holy place. It is probable that he is in the far north of the land near Mount Hermon, where the sources of the river Jordan are found (42:6-7). The separation from God and from the stirring liturgical ritual, which he intensely felt, is much more than geographical. He also suspects that God has left him alone and this feeling of isolation was aggravated by the taunts and jibes of some people around him (42:3 & 10). He was gripped by an overwhelming desire to return to the Temple where so often in the past he had known the Presence of the God (Elohim) of Israel.
This deeply moving lament of a pious Israelite, expressed before Elohim, becomes for the baptized Christian believer a means of profound prayerful meditation and self examination, with urgent petition to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ – see below in “Application.”
Let us notice in particular in this lyric, the refrain (which is a soliloquy), and then the profound longing for the courts of the Lord and his Presence therein.
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God, for I shall again praise him
My help and my God.
Talking to oneself as a means of meditation and encouragement is found in other Psalms as well (see 62:2; 103:1; 116:7; 142:4; 143:4). A dialogue with one’s own soul has also been a method of godly meditation recommended by the saints in Christian history. It is most valuable today when used with care. There is the further point that this dialogue may have been in the mind of the Lord Jesus as he agonized in Gethsemane (Matthew 26:38; but see also John 12:27f.).
In this case the poet has good reason to talk to himself for he is very conscious of how he feels due to his separation from the Temple and the divine Presence; and, at the same time, he is sufficiently knowledgeable in the revelation from the God of Israel that he knows what he must do in this period of personal desolation (cf., “the dark night of the soul” in R.C. spirituality). As a man of deep convictions and also as a creature of change, he must actively hope in God, for certainly, sooner or later, he will join in the praise of Elohim of Israel, who is his Savior and his God. And he has to repeat this message to himself no less than three times (43:8, 11; 44:5). However, its third occurrence at the very end of the whole lyric (44:5), following the positive expressions of 44:4 (“I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy”), suggests that it has become now no longer merely a lament with hope, but rather a statement in humility of confident patience that he will certainly enter the courts of the Lord.
Now we turn to the poet’s deep desire to know and to be in the Presence of Elohim in the Temple.
As a hart longs for flowing streams,
So longs my soul for thee, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God
When shall I come and behold the face of God?
The picture is of a very thirsty deer (doe) in a period of drought desperately searching for streams of water (now dried up). So this poet is in heart and mind profoundly thirsty for God and longing to be in his Presence and know him as the living God. So, he asks, “When shall I begin to drink in deeply the Presence of God?” Later he exclaims unto heaven:
Oh send out thy light and thy truth;
Let them lead me,
Let them bring me to thy holy hill
And to thy dwelling.
Then I will go to the altar of God,
To God my exceeding joy;
And I will praise thee with the lyre,
O God, my God.
So as to be absolutely sure that he really gets to the Temple and, getting there, enters its courts in the right frame of heart and mind, he prays for two guides – God’s light (the Light of his Presence) and God’s truth (as revealed in the Law [Torah]). He knows that by taking this holy route to Jerusalem, he will be able in the right spirit to participate in the services of the Temple, and, doing so, know exceeding joy in the divine Presence, as he joins in the singing of the praise of God, accompanied by the stringed instruments.
However, having come to this position of faith and hope, he is able, as he waits to get to Jerusalem, to know aspects of the Presence and blessings of God where he is before actually being in Jerusalem.
If a person living under the old covenant desired so deeply to be in the Presence of the God of Israel and to be engaged in spiritual worship of him, then, surely, a person living in the new covenant, with God as his Father and Christ as his Savior and Lord, ought to have at least the same intensity of desire to live continually in the Presence of God. and to engage in worship that is “in spirit and in truth” and which magnifies and praises the Holy Trinity.
If our desire does not match his, then let us enter into what he wrote initially for himself but also (in divine providence) for us; and let us ask the Lord our God in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to make it the means of the sure increasing of our desiring and longing to be in the Presence of God and to glorify him continually.
If our desire does not exceed his, then let us with him engage in self-examination, soliloquy and meditation before the Lord, so that our souls, becoming the more thirsty for God, will desire knowledge of and communion with the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ the more.
Once again we have a poem from a singer in the Temple as he expresses longing for the Temple and even more for the Presence of God. The home-sick man deeply desires to return to his beloved work as a singer of the praises of God in the liturgy of the house of the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem. (The expression “LORD of hosts” is used about 300 times in the RSV of the O.T. and points to God, the Creator, as Head and Lord over the angels and archangels, and thus as God Almighty.)
How lovely is thy dwelling place,
O LORD of hosts!
My soul longs, yea, faints
For the courts of the LORD;
My heart and flesh sing for joy
To the living God.
Even the sparrow finds a house,
And the swallow a nest for herself,
Where she may lay her young,
At thy altars, O LORD of hosts,
My king and my God.
The Temple was a magnificent complex with many parts. For the Psalmist it is lovely – full of divine love – because it is the place where the LORD dwells and where his Presence may be felt and known. He can hardly contain himself for his joy overflows and his soul and body join in the praise of his God. And if there is room for the sparrow and the swallow to dwell in the house of the LORD in safety, then how much more is there space for the devout Israelite.
Blessed are those who dwell in thy house,
ever singing thy praise!
Blessed are the men whose strength is in thee,
in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
Both God and wise human beings reckon to be highly privileged those whose vocation it is to be the Temple singers, who praise the LORD in song by day and night. Also, and importantly, God and wise human beings reckon to be highly privileged those exiles from “home,” who trust in the Lord and who know where to go for they have imprinted in their hearts the route to the Temple and to God’s Presence there. Verses 6 -7 portray pilgrims making their way to Jerusalem gaining confidence as they get nearer to their goal, going, as it were, from strength to strength as they journey.
In verse 8 the Psalmist returns to speak in the first person singular as he addresses the LORD God of hosts who is the God of Jacob (Israel), his people. And, as was probably the custom of all pilgrims, he first specifically prays for the Davidic king, who is the people’s protection (cf. Psalm 72) and the adopted son of God (cf. Psalm 2:7), as well as being the effective head of the Temple. This duty accomplished, he returns again to the theme of joy in God.
For a day in thy courts is better
Than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
Than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
For the LORD God is a sun and shield,
He bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does the LORD withhold
From those who walk uprightly.
O LORD of hosts,
Blessed is the man who trusts in thee!
One day in the Lord’s Temple, where his Presence is, cannot be compared with a thousands days anywhere else in the world for that one day is much superior to the many days! In fact, to be a menial servant in the House of the LORD is superior to dwelling as a rich man in the houses of the ungodly.
For the trusting, faithful believer the LORD God is both sun (for light and warmth, energy and joy) and shield (for protection from danger and fear). Further, this God gives grace and glory to obedient covenant people, his adopted children. In fact, this God of grace and glory withholds nothing at all, that is for the true good of his people, from them when they walk in his ways.
The Psalm ends with a third Beatitude, following those in verses 4-5. It is presented as part of his prayer as the Psalmist offers to the LORD what he has learned from his revelation to Israel – that in the sight of God and of the wise on earth the person who trusts in God as his covenant Lord is truly blessed, reckoned as genuinely happy.
In the New Testament, the new covenant people of God are individually and corporately “the temple of God” ( 1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19). Therefore, the faithful Christian finds joy on earth in the fellowship and corporate worship of the Body of Christ. Though he may be attached to a building as a holy place, the Temple is for him the people of God, the members of the new covenant, whose true home and center is in heaven, where they shall behold the glory of the Father in the face of Jesus Christ. This is captured in the hymn of H.F. Lyte, based on this Psalm, which begins, “Pleasant are thy courts above in the land of light and love;” and contains the words, “O, my spirit longs and faints, for the converse of thy Saints.”
The Psalm surely calls believers to take more seriously Christian fellowship and Christian corporate worship so that they are spheres where the Presence of God is sought and known, longed for and experienced. Worship is not to be dumbing-down to make it easy and acceptable to man, but a lifting up with the Holy Spirit in the Name of Christ into the Presence of the Father. And at the same time, those who walk with Christ individually and together and trust in the Father (John 20:29), will know grace and glory (Romans 8:32; Philippians 4: 6-19) in their pilgrimage as aliens and strangers on earth, as they journey to the heavenly Jerusalem.
The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon MA., D.Phil (Oxford)
Sunday, August 20, 2006
For Episcopalians and Anglicans The Psalms are printed in The Book of Common Prayer and are there directed to be used daily in Morning and Evening Prayer. This is because they are, for those within the new covenant, an important part of what they say and think as they come daily before God the Father through Jesus Christ and with the Holy Spirit.
Jesus himself seems to have known many Psalms off by heart and regularly to have prayed them or used parts of their contents as his own prayers, even on the Cross. His disciples followed him in this practice; and so did the early Church. It is most important to recognize that they prayed these ancient prayers not as Jews belonging to the old or Mosaic covenant, but rather as baptized believers who came to the Father as within the Body of Christ. They prayed the psalms knowing and believing that the Law and Prophets, not to mention the Psalter, were brought to fulfillment by Jesus Christ the Messiah.
Thus all prayer – praise, thanksgiving, petition, intercession, confession and lament – was offered from the position of an intimate relation to Christ Jesus and to his atoning death, his glorious resurrection and ascension, his session at the right hand of the Father and the sending from there of the gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church on earth. Thus prayer composed by the old Israel became prayer for and by the new Israel, and the context of the new replaced that of the old covenant.
There are within the collection of one hundred and fifty psalms several which are gripping and moving prayers to the LORD for the renewal, restoration and revival of the status and fortunes of the people of Israel or Judah. When the Psalter is prayed by the people of the new covenant in union with Christ Jesus, then these prayers for renewal become prayers for the revival of genuine Christian devotion, consecration, commitment, faith, hope and love in the Christian Church. And, further, they are prayers which the heavenly High Priest, Jesus the Lord, actually prays, for the Psalter, being the Word of God, is still his prayer book!
Let us look at a couple of them, using the RSV. As we do the comment of St Augustine of Hippo made centuries ago concerning Christ in the Psalter will inspire and help us. He wrote:
It is the one Savior of his Body, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who both prays for us and prays in us, and is prayed to by us. He prays for us, as our Priest: he prays in us as our Head. He is prayed to by us, as our God.
LORD, thou wast favorable to thy land;
Thou didst restore the fortunes of Judah.
Though didst forgive the iniquity of thy people,
Thou didst pardon all their sins.
Thou didst withdraw all thy wrath,
Thou didst turn from thy hot anger.
Here, in verses 1-3 the lament of the people assembled in the Temple or some other holy place begins with an act of recalling that which is solidly in the past. The people remember specific time(s) when their covenant God, the LORD [I AM WHO I AM – Exodus 3], had shown delight in his people and their [his] land. He had restored their fortunes as a people in relation to possession of the land and freedom from enemy interference, as well as from pestilence, drought, plague and the like. Further, he had forgiven their sins and withdrawn from them his wrath/anger so that they were restored to a right relation with him and thus were in receipt of his promised protection and blessings as their covenant God.
Restore us again, O God of our salvation,
And put away thy indignation toward us!
Wilt thou be angry with us for ever?
Wilt thou prolong thy anger to all generations?
Wilt thou not revive us again,
That they people may rejoice in thee?
Memory provided good news of God’s restoration of Israel’s fortunes, but present observation provided a different situation. Now the Presence of the LORD is obviously not with them and they are experiencing not only the results of that holy absence but the positive reality of his chastisement and righteous anger at their sins. Here in verses 4-6 are a series of petitions wherein the people plead for the return of the Presence of the LORD as their covenant God, with all the blessings that his Presence provides and brings.
Show us thy steadfast love, O LORD,
And grant us thy salvation.
The final plea of the people (verse 7) is that the LORD will make known to them practically and really his unchanging Love and deliver them from their present trouble and adversity (whatever they be). They desire to be restored to a right relation to their covenant God, to live with his Presence and under both his laws and his blessing.
Having poured out their hearts to the LORD, they await his response. And this comes through a prophetic oracle, delivered by a prophet, who first hears (verse 8) and then announces (verses 9ff.) what the LORD has to say:
Let me hear what God the LORD will speak,
For he will speak peace to his people,
To his saints, to those who turn to him in their hearts.
In verses 9-13, the message from the Lord as received by the prophet is reported by him in his own words:
Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him.
That glory may dwell in our land.
Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet;
Righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
Faithfulness will spring up from the ground,
And righteousness will look down from the sky.
Yea, the LORD will give what is good,
And our land will yield its increase.
Righteousness will go before him,
And make his footsteps a way.
Deliverance at last from oppression, adversity, plague or other calamity is near as the LORD looks to his people first to recover their fear (reverence. awe and humility) before him. His Presence will then dwell in the land (which is his and theirs – “our”). In fact, so amazing will be the Presence that it will be as if heaven and earth come together in holy embrace. God’s transcendent Love from heaven will be met by human faithfulness to him and his covenant on earth. God’s righteousness (his activity in placing his people in a right relation with him) from heaven and human peace with God and each other on earth will meet as it were in mid-air. And faithfulness to God’s covenant will spring up and grow towards heaven to be met by the descending righteousness of God. Through and by all this divine action, the land will certainly prosper to bring forth good crops and fruit.
In the restored conditions, God will make himself known as the Righteousness LORD and covenant righteousness will show the people the way into his Presence.
Reading this psalm as Christians, and as Anglican Christians in North America, we pray within the Body of Christ and thus in and with the Head of the Body, even the Lord Jesus Christ. As we read verses 1-3 we engage in recalling times and periods of revival in the Church of God, especially those described in the Acts of the Apostles. From the Word of God written and from our knowledge of Church History, we recall God’s descent upon and into his Church in order first of all to forgive the sins and cleanse the hearts of his people, and then to revive it, to restore its fortunes, to reveal his Presence and to manifest his glory.
Then, knowing what a pitiful and terrible state the Anglican churches of the West are in at this time, we humble ourselves before God our Father, and we bow low before him in petition in the name of the Lord Jesus. We pray for his Presence, for forgiveness, cleansing, renewal, regeneration, guidance, and restoration of power and glory through the Gospel of the Father concerning his Son. Our prayer is still:
Show us thy steadfast love, O LORD,
And grant us thy salvation.
In fact, at this stage we can profitably turn to the Litany found in The Book of Common Prayer and pray to the Lord Jesus Christ slowly and deliberately in its hallowed petitions.
Since our condition as Anglican Christians is in such a bad state both before the righteous Lord and towards each other, this period of calling upon the Name of the Lord for him to show us his LOVE and to visit us with his deliverance will necessarily be long and sometimes painful – not that God is lacking in mercy and revival power, but that we are lacking in readiness to repent fully and wholly and trust him maturely.
It is possible in our prayerful fellowship that we shall hear a word of prophecy from a godly member of the congregation [in this case spiritual discernment is most necessary for excited affections can sometimes speak what is desired rather than what is heard]; or it is possible that we shall be led to sure promises in the New Testament of the Lord’s desire to revive us, but only, and really only, when we have learned to fear him – and thus do actually fear him can we expect him to descend in reviving, regenerating and restoring power. [Note “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge” according to Proverbs and the Psalter; and, regrettably, it is a godly virtue significant more by its absence than its presence today. Thus we have at whatever cost to recover it.]
Perhaps the fullness of the portrayal and promises of harmony between heaven and earth, God, the LORD, and his covenant people, provided here, must wait for the “latter-day glory” immediately before the Second Coming of Christ at the end of the present evil age. However, before that final stupendous revelation of the Presence of God with his people, God is surely and certainly ready to revive and restore his people at the local level where they have prepared for his coming. And we can expect such in our congregation and parish and even in deanery, diocese or other basic unit, if God so chooses and if we are prepared and ready for his visitation.
“If my people, who are called by my name. humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal the land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)
[Note: what may be called the corporate apostasy from the covenant of grace, and the rebellion against the Holy Trinity within The Episcopal Church, as an institution, has been very marked, even severe, in recent decades. All Episcopalians, radical and conservative, are mixed up in this, and thus have both much from which to turn away and much to embrace as God’s gracious gifts. See for a description of some of the primary rejections of God’s order in this Church in: Episcopal Innovations 1960-2004, by Peter Toon from www.anglicanmarketplace.com or from 1 800 727 1928.]
When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion,
We were like those who dream.
Then our mouths were filled with laughter,
And our tongue with shouts of joy;
As the people recall a previous point in their history, they are filled with nearly uncontrollable joy and holy laughter. They remember vividly a time when Zion, the city of God and their focal point as a people, was delivered from adversity and restored to its true place and experience as the place where God, the LORD dwelt among his covenant people and showered on them his blessings and protection. We do not know the precise time and event to which reference is being made; but; it is not likely to be the Return from Exile in Babylon, for the Psalm seems to belong to a period before the Exile.
Then they said among the nations,
“The LORD has done great things for them.”
The LORD has done great things for us;
We are glad.
Indeed, so great and so widely known was the deliverance of his city and people by the LORD, that neighboring countries heard or it and marveled at the power of the God of Israel. And this made the covenant people even more exultant.
Restore our fortunes, O LORD,
Like the water courses in the Negeb!
Regrettably, new conditions are in place and laughter has turned to lament and rejoicing to sadness. Zion is now in trouble (from drought or pestilence or oppressors or ? ) and the happy experience of the past prompts the people to plead with their covenant God. To make their point as clear as possible they use the picture of the dry, arid desert in the south of the land, on which there falls a tremendous deluge of rain and the parched and dried-up waterways become streams of living water. Obviously they earnestly desire renewal, regeneration, revival and restoration and know that only the LORD can provide.
As in Psalm 85, so here, the earnest, humble plea to the LORD of the people of God, brings a response from him, sent through one of his servants in the form of a proverb.
May those who sow in tears
Weep with shouts of joy.
Then this divine proverb is elaborated with a picture of the individual farmer (in penitence and humbly before God) with his bag of seeds walking up and down his field scattering the seed on it, praying that they will grow and bear fruit.
He that goes forth weeping
Bearing the seed for sowing,
The divine proverb is then completed with the picture of the harvest being reaped, and the farmer returning home with his sheaves of corn and filled with joy because of the provision of the LORD, his covenant God.
Shall come with shouts of joy,
Bringing his sheaves with him.
Here God is seen as answering the earnest prayers of his people by promising to bless their faithful work and endeavor done according to his holy laws in his name. A seemingly impossible reversal will not come by God alone intervening as the people stand and stare in amazement, but rather by God inspiring, strengthening and guiding his people to do what is right and good in his sight, and then in his sovereign mercy blessing them as his faithful covenant people even as they do his will as his servants.
In this Psalm we encounter two forms of revival by God of his people and of their fortunes in his service. These we need prayerfully to consider and meditate upon so that we approach the need for renewal as informed, mature believers.
The first is described as having happened in the past in the first three verses, as the covenant people re-live and thoroughly enjoy what the LORD did for them in days now gone. This form of restoration is the way of immediate divine intervention, when God acts in a decisive way on behalf of his people, for all to behold his power and glory.
The second is described in the last three verses through a picture taken from farming, and it is revival and restoration that is just as much from the power and mercy of the LORD but this time it takes a lot longer and it involves the practical cooperation and trustful faithfulness and obedience of the people of God.
Obviously, the people of the old covenant were not in a position to make a deal with God, the LORD, as to how and when he would be pleased to revive and restore their fortunes. Likewise, the members of the Body of Christ, the people of the new covenant, cannot tell God the Father in their prayers and petitions just how he should actually cause there to be renewal of his Church. They can wait upon him and in so doing can learn his will but this involves prostrating at the feet of his Majesty not sitting across the table in negotiation, claiming rights! After all he is the Sovereign Lord as well as the God of all grace. [One of the very pernicious effects of the talk of “the baptismal covenant” in The Episcopal Church in recent decades has been to give the impression, in an American culture of rights, that the baptized make a contract with God and are his partners rather than his humble servants.]
Let us we think of how this psalm addresses us by noting what the apostle Paul wrote, also using farming metaphors:
Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully (2 Cor. 9:6).
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked, for whatever one sows that will he also reap… (Gal. 6:7-10)
And what St James wrote is also worth pondering:
See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and late rains. You, also, be patient. Establish your hearts for the coming of the Lord is at hand (5:7-8)
God our Father may be calling us to a long period, in which to display our genuine faithfulness to him and to the new covenant of his Son, before he sends the revival that the Anglican way desperately needs and for which mature believers pray earnestly; but, perhaps, as yet we (as a whole) are not ready to experience the shouts of joy as we carry the sheaves to the barn. We need to be tested and matured more by the chastisement and mercy of God, our Father.
The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon MA., D.Phil (Oxford)