Monday, February 23, 2009

Salvation

In order to help explain the Anglican, and thus historic Catholic, position on salvation, the process by which we are brought into communion with God, I think it is important to clarify a couple of the terms that we frequently use but are not always distinguished as they should:

Justification is the initial act by which God in His love and mercy makes us the children of God and inserts us into the Life of the Holy Trinity. Justification is the beginning of the process that ultimately leads to our sanctification and union with God. It is the act of God's grace that unites us to the Incarnation, Passion and Glorification of Jesus Christ and confers upon us divine sonship. But it is only the first and initially necessary stage or phase of what we usually call 'salvation.' We are justified, made righteous before God, by the grace and merits of Our Lord: we are justified by grace apart from the works of the Law, as Saint Paul declares. We are justified by grace through the gift of faith. But beyond justification comes the Christian life of holiness and transformation, which is usually called sanctification. In sanctification God calls us to conform our lives to His and to grow in faith, hope and love through worship, prayer, repentance and good works pleasing to God. At the end of the process of justification and sanctification is 'salvation.' Yes, it is all one great mystery, the sweep of God's love and our response to it, but it is helpful to distinguish these realities. They are distinguished intellectually but never separated.

Salvation is the final and ultimate state to which mankind is called, the goal and purpose for which Our Blessed Lord came to redeem and transform us. Strictly speaking we enter the state of salvation, the ultimate consummation of our union with Christ and our perfect transformation into the Likeness of God, upon death and resurrection. Salvation, which comes from the Latin word meaning health or fullness, is really nothing less than our becoming by grace what God is by nature - it is theosis, or divinisation, whereby we are conformed to Our Lord Jesus Christ and made like unto Him, body and soul, in glory. Once we are justified by grace, God begins to draw us more and more into His Image and Likeness, that we may go from strength to strength and glory to glory in the life of grace. We become Christ-like, as Our Lord reproduces His life in us. 'Beloved, now are we the children of God, and so we are; we do not yet know what we shall be like, but we know that when we see Him, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is' (I St John 3.1-3). In common speech we often use the term 'salvation' to describe the way by which God first unites us to Himself by His grace; but in truth, that is but one aspect of the mystery of salvation, the initial aspect called justification. In heaven, we are finally 'saved,' brought to our eschatological fulfillment in Christ.

'Baptism doth now save us' (I St Peter 3.21). Baptism is the formal and instrumental cause of our justification, the grace of justification, because it implants the Life of God in us. It is sola gratia, pure grace. Some modern evangelicals actually assert there is another kind of Baptism other than 'Baptism with water', but the New Testament and the ancient Catholic Church know only 'one Baptism for the remission of sins,' and that is the Baptism of water and the Holy Ghost, the Sacrament of Christian Baptism.

Baptism is God's Act upon us to make us the children of God, not our act towards God. But Baptism, an objective gift which confers the gift of faith, requires the subjective response of our hearts and souls in order for it to be effective and to bear fruit in our lives. The grace of Baptism, without the exercise of personal faith after the grace is given, lies dormant in the soul. The sacraments are not magic, and they require our personal correspondence and cooperation in order for the grace given in them to produce in us what God intends. But Baptism assures us that the grace of justification is not something we engender or create through our own personal faith or effort - we cannot justify ourselves, even through our own subjective act of faith or exercise of the will. Our justification requires God to do something to us and for us and in us that we cannot do for ourselves. That gift is grace, and grace, justifying grace, is given in Baptism.

In Baptism we are marked with an indelible sacramental character and signed and sealed with the Holy Ghost. But God will not force us to be saved, even with the grace of Baptism, and therefore we must cooperate with our justification to grow into sanctification, the process in which we live out the grace of our Baptism in holiness and virtue. If we fail to respond generously to the grace of our Baptism in faith, hope and love, we cannot obtain that eternal life for which Baptism is given. Many are called, but few are chosen. Baptism does not automatically bring a person to the final state of salvation; it guarantees the grace of regeneration and the gift of eternal life, but it does not confer grace in such a way that one cannot lose one's state of grace. A person is not guaranteed salvation simply because he is baptised, but Our Lord tells us clearly in the New Testament that we must be baptised for salvation.

Alternatively, however, we are not ultimately saved by faith alone, sola fide. The Bible itself rejects the doctrine of sola fide. Article XI of the Articles of Religion uses the term 'faith only' in sixteenth-century fashion but does not specifically explain what is meant by it or give it dogmatic authority; it leaves the interpretation of the phrase to the Creeds and Liturgy of the Church. The semantic phrase can be understood in the orthodox Pauline sense of intending to emphasise that it is Faith and not the ceremonial Law of the Old Testament that justifies (although it is essential to point out that St Paul never uses the controverted phrase at all), but the phrase is not true in the later confessional reformational sense which separates Faith from virtuous action. We see from Scripture that it is grace through faith that makes us righteous before God, and justification is both infused and imputed. God does what He declares. He both infuses our souls with divine grace in Baptism and the sacramental order and also declares us righteous, vindicates us from sin and death and clothes us with Christ's righteousness, for the sake of the merits of Our Lord. But faith must be alive, that is, active in love, for it to justify.

'You see that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead (St James 2.24, 26). The New Testament never divorces faith from the other theological virtues. We are justified by faith apart from the works of the Law, but we are also justified, not by circumcision, but 'by faith working in love' (Galatians 5.6). We are justified by faith which acts in love and hope, which faith is given expression in good works, a living faith. A mere intellectual assent to the proposition of belief or a mere emotive or psychological trusting in God in one's heart, apart from the outward and objective action of faith in love, do not justify before God. 'And though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing' (I Corinthians 13.2). Faith is therefore not in the New Testament solely a subjective or individual response to God in one's own heart and life, but it is God Himself believing and trusting in us and through us in a objective supernatural manner. It is Christ's perfect Faith in His Father which is both imputed and infused into us at Baptism. In Baptism and the Filial Faith thus conferred, we 'put on Christ' and become the sons of God (Galatians 3.26-27).

To summarise from a favourite text what I have in a very meagre way tried to express:

'Eternal salvation is promised to mankind only through the merits of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and upon condition of obedience to the teaching of the Gospel, which requires Faith, Hope and Charity, and the due observance of the ordinances of the Orthodox and Catholic Religion. Faith is a virtue infused by God, whereby man accepts, and believes without doubting, whatever God has revealed in the Church concerning true Religion. Hope is a virtue infused by God, and following upon Faith; by it man puts his entire trust and confidence in the goodness and mercy of God, through Jesus Christ, and looks for the fulfilment of the divine promises made to those who obey the Gospel. Charity is a virtue infused by God, and likewise consequent upon Faith, whereby man, loving God above all things for His own sake, and his neighbour as himself for God's sake, yields up his will to a joyful obedience to the revealed will of God in the Church.'

Saturday, February 14, 2009

?

Father David Houlding, Chairman of the Catholic Group in the General Synod of the Church of England and Master General of the Society of the Holy Cross said the following at today's Additional National Assembly of Forward in Faith UK:

'We're not trying to create a Church of our own. We're not interested in Continuing Anglicanism. We're interested in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.'

Oh, dear.

The Nature of the Liturgy












Father Schmemann is spot on - Western theology and praxis have through the course of scholastical ages tended to reduce sacramental economy and efficacy to matters of validity, a rather mechanistic and formalistic view of grace and of the sacramental order. Although the Eastern perspective Father Alexander represents is certainly not Donatist, it is very Cyprianic and insists on the personal nature of the sacramental life, for celebrant and recipients, within the communion of the visible and sacramental Church. The Eastern (and ancient) view is organic, corporate and personalised; it sees the Church as a corporate personality, a living Body, the totus Christus, Head and Members, and the priest-celebrant as much paterfamilias as in persona Christi. This personal emphasis on the paternal role and example of the priesthood, on the priesthood as the moral and spiritual exemplar as well as the sacramental organ and functionary of the Church, is sometimes missing from Western theological discourse. As heirs of the nominalism and scholasticism of the Middle Ages, Anglicans are in this respect almost entirely like their Roman Catholic counterparts: Anglicans have been positively obsessed with the question of 'validity' of Orders, as opposed to efficacy and effectiveness in the sacramental system, since the nineteenth century, thanks mostly to Apostolicae Curae and endless debates about the bare minimalistic requirements for what makes sacraments 'valid.' 'Validity,' it should always be remembered, is not a spiritual but a legal term - any sacrament is valid for the community that celebrates it. Disputes over validity only occur when one church seeks to enter into communion with another.

In the Western approach the validity of the sacraments, as a result of the teaching of Saint Augustine, is often divorced in an unintended and unnatural way from the communion, the koinonia of the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ and the Great Sacrament. For the Orthodox this is unthinkable - sacraments and sanctity of life cannot be separated from the organic life of the Church as a whole. For the Orthodox, the sacraments are valid because the Church, through the priesthood, administers them, not because an individual priest possesses certain 'powers' not shared by other Christians. It is all the action of the Holy Ghost through appointed means in the communion of the Orthodox Church. For them, it is the Orthodox Church which makes the sacraments 'valid,' for she alone is the mean, sphere and source of grace, the abode of the Holy Ghost. The Orthodox have never attempted to divorce sacrament from Church or to dogmatise the mystery.

As Bishop Kallistos Ware says so perfectly, Apostolic Succession of Order is meaningless and futile without consideration at the same time of the Apostolic Succession of Saints, of holiness, of divinisation and transformed human life and experience by grace. In our effort to insist on the validity of the sacraments administered by unworthy and unholy men, a concern which in itself is necessary for the sacramental assurance of the People of God, we have all too often forgotten that the true purpose of the sacraments and of the priesthood is to make men holy and to raise us into the mystery of theosis, which entails moral conversion, perfection, transformation, a death to sin and a resurrection to new life in the Spirit.

We can so emphasise the cultic and official role of the priesthood, which is assuredly true in itself, that we ignore the priesthood's familial, paternal, catechetical, moral and spiritual role as the nurturer and provider of the Lord's Flock. In Anglicanism, the Ordinal serves as a wonderful corrective to the typical overemphasis in Western Christendom on the individual powers and prerogatives of the ordained priest as a sacrificer and liturgiser, which again are true in themselves, and restores the urgently-needed balance of the priest as sacerdos, minister of the Sacraments, yes, but also as the Pastor, Teacher, and Shepherd of the Church, whose primarily responsibility is the pastoral care, theological instruction and moral edification of those to whom he is sent.

The Orthodox, holding to antiquity, also have not slipped into the later Western penchant for making the liturgy a collection of individuals, each at prayer in his own private sphere of personal devotion, because of their insistence on the fact that the liturgy is a uniquely corporate action of the whole Church in which each person fulfils an indispensable and necessary role. In that setting the priest is not only the celebrant, but the father, president and enabler of the congregation. In the ancient tradition the priest is not seen as one separated or cut-off from the people, 'doing his own thing' at the Altar. Rather, he personifies and expresses in his unique and irreplaceable liturgical role the prayer and action of the whole body. He is in persona ecclesiae, in the person of the Church, as well as in persona Christi. He unites and empowers the laity, as each worshipper brings his own liturgical office to the movement of the whole.

Saint Clement of Rome says every Christian performs his own proper 'liturgy' within the Liturgy of the whole Assembly.

The Eastern Churches have never forgotten this intrinsically corporate and organic nature of liturgical worship: clericalisation therefore never affected the Eastern Rite quite as much as it had the medieval Western. The Eastern Rite has always been in the vernacular or in a sacral version thereof, with hymns sung corporately by the whole congregation, the action of the liturgy taking place before the people, with the exception of the Anaphora behind the icon screen. The liturgy is definitely 'active participation' and therefore always ad orientem, facing East, facing the Lord - as it should be. But the priest continually moves back and forth from the congregation to the Altar, uniting the action of the people in his own ministry and liturgical service.

Anglicanism has done much, through liturgical renewal and revision since 1549, to correct the late medieval clericalised form of the Eucharist and has recovered much of the ancient conception of worship in our own time through the Eastward Position, vestments, Altars, lights, incense, vernacular, hymns and congregational responses. The Anglican Rite simply is the restored and preserved ancient and orthodox Western Rite in all its fulness, as demonstrated by its embrace by the canonical Orthodox Churches. But the medieval mentality remains in some areas of traditional Anglicanism where the priest and his independent cultic role are concerned. After all, Anglicanism is but a special flavour of the Catholic Church of the West; she is ancient Western Catholicism, and has thus inherited the whole history of Western Christianity. I think it is fair to say that we still struggle at times and in places with that individualisation and clericalisation of the Church that arose in the Middle Ages and which actually impoverishes the true significance and meaning of the ordained priest, the sacerdos, in the action of the Mass - and in his life and ministry to the people entrusted to him.

Liturgy is life, and thus how we worship and what attitudes we bring to the liturgy and priesthood affect every aspect of the Church's practical witness, living and experience. If we get the liturgy wrong, we get the Church wrong. And so we must endeavour to get it right!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Article XX

Article XX of the Articles of Religion teaches us that the Holy Catholic Church is the true and proper guardian and interpreter of Holy Scripture, the unique possessor and transmitter of Holy Writ, and that in her doctrine and practice she is bound only to teach and present as necessary to eternal salvation that which is established and proven by the authority God's Word written, the Holy Scriptures. 'The Church to teach - the Bible to prove.' The Church has authority to resolve theological and doctrinal disputes and uses the teaching of Scripture to do so: the classic example of this ministry is the convocation of the Seven Ecumenical Councils and the formulation of the Creeds and Definitions of the Undivided Church. Because the Church receives her commission and authority from Christ and the Apostles, she has the ability to discern theological truth, to explicate and explain the meaning of Scripture, and to apply the Scriptural datum to particular theological controversies - all by the indefectible guidance of the Holy Ghost. The XX Article is specifically a sixteenth-century corrective to the late medieval and Tridentine Roman notion that Holy Tradition is a separate, distinct and equal source for saving doctrine independent of the teaching of Scripture. The Church cannot raise Tradition above Scripture, but locates her saving doctrine in the revelation of the written Word, which is then communicated and expressed by the Tradition. Scripture and Tradition are inseparable and used together by the Church to establish doctrine, but Tradition can never be held above Scripture or as separate source for dogma, revealed truths from God, apart from Scripture. The genius of Anglicanism is that it holds together the Catholic emphasis on the authority and custodial vocation of the Church as the unique and authoritative teacher and interpreter of the Scriptures with the reformational emphasis on the primacy of Scripture for establishing what is necessary for salvation.

Anglican clergy promise at their ordination only to teach as necessary to salvation that which is contained in and proven by Scripture. Because of Apostolic Succession of Orders and Faith, the ordained and the Church they serve have the obligation to function as faithful stewards of that Apostolic Tradition which is conveyed both in Scripture and through the living witness of the New Testament People of God. We are not sola Scriptura, because we believe in the authority and role of Tradition and the Church, but we are prima Scriptura, giving Scripture, the contextual teaching of Scripture, the priority in all theological teaching, for the Bible is the uniquely inspired and canonised Word of God. The Article also prohibits prooftexting, the isolation of one passage of Scripture from the rest for the purpose of establishing doctrine in opposition to the clear contextual meaning of Scripture as a whole. The Bible, written in the Church, by the Church, for the Church, must be taken in its totality of meaning and its revelation must be received and lived-out in the communion of the Church's worship, prayer and service. For Anglicanism, Scripture, Tradition and Church form a seamless whole, an organic unity in which each component of revelation fulfils, complements and interprets the others. The way that Anglicanism reads and lives the Scriptures is an ecclesiastical way, in the heart of the Church, in the Liturgy, Creeds, Sacraments, Ministry and patristic consensus. 'The Bible is the Church's Book'...

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Private Judgement

Finally, questions of orthodox faith - the faith which we believe is revealed by God - are decided by the authority of the whole Catholic Church, East and West, the Church of the first millennium in which all Christians were united in faith and practice.

Private judgement, however necessary it may be in an initial decision to accept and embrace the faith through conversion and to work out the faith in our daily lives and experiences, can never ultimately replace the teaching authority of the whole Church, the clear content of Scripture fulfilled and interpreted by Sacred Tradition. It is not up to us personally to decide what is orthodox doctrine or not - that is given to us by the Church, which is Christ's visible and sacramental presence on earth authenticated and guided into the Truth by the Holy Ghost.

Private judgement depends on subjective belief and discrimination and is only as reliable or free from error as the individual person who exercises it. We are duty-bound to inform and educate our consciences. Private judgement can be moral relativism in the sphere of determining and establishing saving truth and doctrine. It is often reduced merely to personal experience, a limited experience used consciously or not to trump the Church's authorised dogma. When it comes to the Faith, it is for us not a matter of what 'I' believe, but rather of what 'we' believe, such as in the corporate recitation of the Creeds. In faith, hope and love, and in submission and subjection, we accept what the Church herself teaches as doctrine necessary to orthodox Christian profession and life. We are commanded to avoid private judgement in Scripture (II Thessalonians 2.15, II Thessalonians 3.6, II St Peter 1.19-21) and Tradition (Article XXXIV).

This is point 7 in the my work Authentic Catholic Anglicanism: 'The Obedience of Faith' - Fidelity to Holy Tradition and Avoidance of Private Judgement. Catholic Christianity is a revealed Religion. Human convention or philosophy has not contrived the Gospel, for the Christian Faith is a divine revelation directly communicated by God. The fullest expression of the Gospel is located in Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition, one divine revelation communicated to the Church in two modes but containing the same Rule of Faith. As Saint Basil the Great professes, 'Holy Scripture is fulfilled, clarified and interpreted by Holy Tradition.' The Anglican axiom is: the Bible and the primitive Church. For Anglicans, the Holy Scriptures, the Holy Tradition and the Holy Church are absolutely inseparable and together transmit the saving Word of God for mankind's salvation. If we are faithfully to live the Gospel and receive it in its entire truth, we must submit all private judgement in matters of doctrine, faith and morality to the authority of the universal, ancient and consentient Tradition of the Undivided Church. We are the children of the Church, called to live, worship, work, obey and pray in the heart of the Church. We are Churchmen, not sectarians. We are called to what Saint Paul characterises as the obedience of faith (Romans 1.5, 16.26).

This area is particularly important for those who offer themselves for ordination to the Sacred Ministry. The Ministers of the Church, deacons and priests alike, are ordained to teach the Catholic Faith which comes to us from Our Lord and the Apostles. The ordained are the official agents, organs and teachers of the Church, and they possess the greatest responsibility to teach and instruct the faithful only what the Church, for which they are ordained, holds as true. The ordained are called upon to set aside their personal theological views and opinions and to teach only that which bears the authority and approbation of the Church in which they serve. The failure of clergy to teach the Apostolic Faith contained in the Scriptures, Creeds and Prayer Book led to the disaster that is now the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, and so traditional Anglican clergy should be especially concerned to transmit only that which we have received in the Anglican patrimony, which in turn is the faith of the whole Church. The ordained are the living conduits and instruments of Holy Tradition, and are accountable to God and the Church to be 'faithful stewards of the mysteries of God' (I Corinthians 4). Those of us called to Holy Orders must strive in an intensive way to hold, teach, profess and catechise only that which we are certain the Church, One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic, informs us is revealed by God.

I know this all sounds very strange and different to those of us who come out of evangelical protestantism, but this regula fidei, the Rule of Faith, is terribly important. It is our mandate, our joy and privilege, and our greatest urgency. It ensures that we will not impose our own personal or idiosyncratic views on the faith, views which may not have as their basis the collective wisdom and knowledge of the whole Church of the Apostles, Fathers and Saints throughout the ages. In short, Holy Mother Church knows more than any individual can - she knows more and has tested her faith and her teaching more thoroughly than we are able. The faith of the Church is based on the consensus fidelium, the common sense of the People of God, the collective consent, belief and received teaching of the Church in all places, in all ages and times, in all the nations of the world. We are the guardians, defenders and teachers of this Deposit of Faith, deposited in the Church by the Holy Spirit. Such a role is an ominous task, but it is precisely the task given to those who are ordained.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Salvation, Hope and the Sacramental Economy

Very importantly, in common conversation many well-meaning people confuse the concept 'once saved, always saved' with the theological virtue of hope. Although we are always free to sin and deliberately reject God's free and unmerited grace, God has promised that when we are baptised and brought into supernatural communion with Him we are given hope, a grace that surely fixes us on confidence in God, a sure trust in God's reliability, faithfulness and trustworthiness, a certain true anchor in Who God is and what He has promised for us, a grace that can lead us to heaven. Hope leads us to heaven and provides us with the assurance that God will never leave us nor forsake us: God is dependable and always keeps His promises. He shall work in us to achieve that which is His good pleasure, the holy, perfect and acceptable Will of God. Although God will never force us to be saved, and therefore does not and will not save us against our own will, he provides the grace we need to rely on Him in order to be saved. The process of salvation depends totally upon God's initiative and sustenance, before, during and after, from Baptism all the way to glory.

It should also be said that the sacramental order does not limit or restrict God's grace in any way, a common concern of the evangelically-minded. God is not limited or bound to the sacraments, but the Church is, because God has so established the sacramental economy. God is not bound to the sacraments, but we are. God is free in His sovereign power and grace to act upon any person at any time, as pleases His holy and perfect will. He can save and forgive and redeem and transform freely as He wills. The sacraments are covenanted means of grace, covenants of God's love and mercy, by which He has promised that whenever and wherever the sacraments are administered according to His institution, He always gives His grace. We can never say where the grace of God is not - the sacraments tell us where we know for certain His grace is.

The sacraments are guarantees of grace, assurances of grace that always confer grace because God has promised He will do so in them. For this reason Our Lord Jesus Christ gave us Baptism and Holy Communion as the two dominical and Gospel sacraments 'generally necessary for salvation' (BCP 292, St John 3.5, St John 6.53-58). We cannot and should not limit God, and the Church does not do so. But when we receive the sacraments we have God's seal of approval, God's unbreakable covenant, that the grace of the Incarnate Word will be given to us in a way that corresponds perfectly to our human nature. 'God became man so that man may become God.' The Incarnate Lord incarnates Himself in His sacraments so that we may become incarnations of His life and grace. We do not judge where God works outside the Church and the sacramental economy, but we know from Scripture, Tradition and experience that He does work within the Church and the sacramental order. This is the heart of the Catholic Faith of the Catholic Sacraments.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Baptism, the Prayer Book and the Articles

Therefore the key to discovering what Anglicans have always believed about Baptism and what the Articles mean when they talk about Baptism is the Baptismal Office in the Common Prayer Book. And what does the Prayer Book Baptismal Office say about Baptism?

None can enter into the Kingdom of God, except he be regenerate and born anew of Water and of the Holy Ghost; I beseech you to call upon God the Father, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that of his bounteous mercy he will grant to this Child (or Person) that which by nature he cannot have; that he may be baptized with Water and the Holy Ghost, and received into Christ's holy Church, and be made a living member of the same.

Through Baptism we are born anew of water and the Holy Ghost and we receive that which by nature we cannot have, that is, grace and eternal life. In Baptism we are received into Christ's Church and made members of Christ supernaturally by grace.

We call upon thee for this Child (or this thy Servant), that he, coming to thy holy Baptism, may receive remission of sin, by spiritual regeneration.

Baptism is not only a symbol - it actually confers the remission of sin and causes spiritual regeneration, the communication of the new life of grace, the New Life of Christ. A new nature in the Life of God is created in us. Baptism washes away original and actual sin and makes us a new creature in Christ.

So give now unto us who ask; let us who seek, find; open the gate unto us who knock; that this Child (or this thy Servant) may enjoy the everlasting benediction of thy heavenly washing, and may come to the eternal kingdom which thou hast promised by Christ our Lord. Amen.

Baptism gives to the one who receives it the eternal blessing of a heavenly washing away of sins, which is given so in turn we may enter Christ's eternal kingdom.

Give thy Holy Spirit to this Child (or this thy Servant), That he may be born again, And be made an heir of everlasting salvation; Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, Now and forever. Amen.

In the action of Baptism itself, the recipient is born again and made an heir of everlasting salvation. That unique sacramental grace has not been received before Baptism. God is asked to give the grace of salvation and new birth to the one about to be baptised. Baptism is the Sign of Regeneration: it causes and effects what it symbolises.

Ye have prayed that our Lord Jesus Christ would vouchsafe to receive him, to release him from sin, to sanctify him with the Holy Ghost, to give him the kingdom of heaven, and everlasting life.

The prayers offered for the one to be baptised ask God for all of the graces of Baptism which will be supplied by the sacramental action - God adopts us as His children, sets us free from sin, sanctifies us with the Holy Ghost and gives us eternal life in the kingdom of heaven through the act of Baptism.

O MERCIFUL God, grant that like as Christ died and rose again, so this Child (this thy Servant) may die to sin and rise to newness of life. Amen.
Grant that all sinful affections may die in him, and that all things belonging to the Spirit may live and grow in him. Amen.
Grant that he may have power and strength to have victory, and to triumph, against the devil, the world, and the flesh. Amen.
Grant that whosoever is here dedicated to thee by our office and ministry, may also be endued with heavenly virtues, and everlastingly rewarded, through thy mercy, O blessed Lord God, who dost live, and govern all things, world without end. Amen.

The next prayer petitions God for all of the benefits and graces of Baptism about to be received, graces which have not yet been infused in the soul through the action of Baptism. Baptism unites us to the death and resurrection of Our Lord and gives us a new life; it eradicates the power of original sin and imparts the life of the Spirit; it grants us supernatural power to conquer actual sin, the world, flesh and devil; it infuses us with divine virtues given by God.

Regard, we beseech thee, the supplications of thy congregation; sanctify this Water to the mystical washing away of sin; and grant that this Child (this thy Servant), now to be baptized therein, may receive the fulness of thy grace, and ever remain in the number of thy faithful children; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, be all honour and glory, now and evermore. Amen.

Baptism is the 'mystical washing away of sin,' it objectively causes sin to be removed from the soul. Baptism imparts to the recipient the fulness of grace and the divine sonship, adoption as God's child through the Holy Ghost. We become the children of God in Baptism.

SEEING now, dearly beloved brethren, that this Child (or this Person) is regenerate, and grafted into the body of Christ's Church, let us give thanks unto Almighty God for these benefits; and with one accord make our prayers unto him, that this Child (or this Person) may lead the rest of his life according to this beginning.

Immediately after the Baptism itself, the priest declares that Baptism has caused the candidate to become regenerate - that is, to be recreated to the new life of grace by God's power. A supernatural grace of divine life has been infused in the very act of Baptism. Made a member of the Church, the recipient then receives the intercession of the Church that he may persevere unto salvation according to this beginning of the life of grace in the soul. The implication is such that the person could potentially not lead the rest of his life in correspondence to the grace of his Baptism, that is, he can forfeit the grace he has received by mortal sin.

WE yield thee hearty thanks, most merciful Father, that it hath pleased thee to regenerate this Child (or this thy Servant) with thy Holy Spirit, to receive him for thine own Child, and to incorporate him into thy holy Church. And humbly we beseech thee to grant, that he, being dead unto sin, may live unto righteousness, and being buried with Christ in his death, may also be partaker of his resurrection; so that finally, with the residue of thy holy Church, he may be an inheritor of thine everlasting kingdom; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

The final prayer of the Baptismal Office rehearses what happens to the soul in Baptism. The recipient is regenerated with the Holy Ghost, adopted as God's child by grace, incorporated into the Body of Christ. He is 'dead unto sin,' freed from all sins and united to Christ's saving passion and resurrection. The Church prays that the Baptism may bear fruit in the recipient's bodily resurrection in the Last Day at the Final Judgement and that it may lead the candidate to eternal life in the kingdom of God.

Having reviewed the explicitly clear and unmistakable doctrine of Baptism in the Prayer Book, we may now proceed to see how the pertinent Articles of Religion agree with the Liturgy... The Articles of Religion unambiguously teach baptismal regeneration and real tragedy of mortal sin...

Article IX: Of Original or Birth Sin: The Article affirms what Western Catholic theology has always stated in opposition to the heresy of Pelagianism, that man inherits from the fall of Adam a condition called original sin, a condition of death, mortality and separation from God caused by man's original transgression, a condition inherited by all human beings because of their spiritual and physical descent from Adam. Original sin does not destroy man's goodness or the Image of God in man, but distorts, wounds, injures and disfigures the divine image in us. We are 'very far gone for original righteousness' but not totally depraved. Those who believe and are baptised, the regenerate, are freed from original sin but still possess concupiscence, the inclination or desire for evil, which remains even after regeneration. Concupiscence is only overcome through sanctification and moral effort.

Article X: Of Free-Will: Man cannot because of original sin save himself or engender saving faith in himself through his own effort. He is brought to a saving communion with God and to the performance of good works pleasing to God only through the grace of Jesus Christ. God by His grace heals our free-will injured by sin and empowers us to have faith in God, to love God and to do what is pleasing to Him.

Article XI: Of the Justification of Man: We are justified before God only because of the merit of Our Lord Jesus Christ and not by our own works. We appropriate justification in Christ through Faith (see below).

Article XV: Of Christ alone without Sin: Christ alone is without any sin original or actual, but is the spotless Lamb of God. Our Lord has a perfect human nature like ours in every way, but without sin. We the rest 'although baptised and born again in Christ' still commit sins against God. The Article clearly identifies Baptism with being born again. The two realities are set side by side as the same action. To be baptised is to be be born again.

Article XVI: Of Sin after Baptism: This Article is a key presentation of the orthodox faith. First, it is possible to commit deadly, that is mortal, sin after Baptism, that is, sin that extinguishes the grace of God in the soul and causes spiritual death, the 'sin unto death' of I St John 5.16. We can, even after Baptism, sin against God in such a way that we separate ourselves from salvation and the grace of eternal life. Post-baptismal sin that kills grace is real. But sin after Baptism, even if deadly and mortal, can be forgiven. By repentance we can be forgiven and restored to baptismal grace. The Article says that when we are baptised 'we have received the Holy Ghost.' It also says 'we may depart from grace given,' we can reject the grace of our Baptism, which is the Holy Ghost. Through repentance after Baptism we can 'arise again and amend our lives.' It is possible to be restored to grace and to live a better life even after such deadly sin. The Article then condemns those who state that post-baptismal sin cannot be forgiven in those who truly repent. The teaching of the Article is clear that Baptism is the gift of the Holy Ghost, that one can commit mortal sin which severs communion with God after Baptism, and that one can be forgiven through repentance. One can indeed lose one's salvation, but can be reconciled to God through repentance.

Article XXV: Of the Sacraments: Sacraments are not only symbols, token and badges of Christian belief, but are witnesses, and most importantly, effectual signs of grace by which God works invisibly in us and enlivens, confirms and strengthens our faith in Him. The sacraments are not only symbols devoid of grace or power, but actually effect what they signify, what they sign. They are instruments that cause grace in us. In the sacraments God acts and works in us from the inside out and infuses His grace in us. The Article informs us that Our Lord instituted Baptism in the Gospel and that the visible sign of Baptism was directly instituted by God. The sacraments have an objective power apart from the faith of the recipient. The grace of the sacraments can be received worthily to a 'wholesome effect or operation' or can be received unworthily unto damnation. The grace does not depend on the recipient or his faith, but the subsequent effect or result of the grace does.

Article XXVI: Of the Unworthiness of the Ministers: Sacraments are valid because they are given by the commandment and institution of Christ and in His Name and authority, with His commission given to the ordained - the sinfulness or unworthiness of the ordained does not invalidate the sacraments. Sacraments have an objective character. The effect of Christ's institution and the grace of the sacraments depend on Christ's will for His Church. The sacraments are always valid for everyone wherever they are administered because their effect does not depend on the minister but upon the promise and power of Our Lord. The sacraments have an objective grace and power that does not depend upon the moral state of the celebrant.

Article XXVII: Of Baptism: Baptism itself is not simply or merely an outward sign or profession of faith on the part of those who believe in Christ. It is not only an outward symbol or ordinance which distinguishes Christians from unbelievers. It is not merely membership in an institutional church or a human society. It is the Sign of Regeneration and New-Birth, that is, it effects and causes the regeneration and new birth of the Christian soul. The sign is not empty or symbolic, but instrumental; it conveys grace as a channel, an instrument. The word 'sign' means the sacrament is one thing that conveys and communicates another, an effective or efficient sign of grace. The instrument grafts the recipient into the Body of Christ, the Mystical Body, the Church of which Jesus Christ is the Head and all the Baptised are the Members (BCP 290). In Baptism, God promises to forgive us all our sins and to adopt us as His children by the Holy Spirit - these realities are communicated by the sign of the sacrament, which signifies and seals them. Baptism is the Sacrament of Faith - through the prayer of the Church to God in the baptismal liturgy the theological virtue of Faith (I Corinthians 13) is increased and confirmed, ratified by the Faith of the Church, and grace unto eternal life is intensified. Baptism is the entry, the gate, into eternal life.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi

The axiomatic principle of all orthodox Christian theology is the 'law of prayer is the law of belief' or 'we believe as we pray.' The XXXIX Articles of the Church of England are intended to be interpreted by the Book of Common Prayer, which contains through worship the practical expression of what the Anglican Church teaches and believes. Anglicanism has no strictly dogmatic or systematic theology such as that found in the classical protestant bodies or in Roman Catholicism. Our doctrine is preeminently found in Scripture as it is ordered, organised and incorporated in our liturgical worship. Our doctrine is based on liturgical theology - for the Book of Common Prayer is our teaching office, our magisterium. It contains and embodies the Great Tradition of the Undivided Church, the living dynamic doctrinal inheritance of the whole Church of Christ shared by all Christians during the first millennium.

Therefore the Articles of Religion, historically conditioned as they are as articles only intended to address specific religious controversies in the sixteenth century, are subject to interpretation by the Prayer Book. The Articles are useful for understanding the classic Augustinian and Thomistic position on controverted theological matters taken by the Church of England in the 1570s, but they are not now and never were intended to be an exhaustive or comprehensive statement of orthodox Christian doctrine. They set the boundaries within which Anglicans traditionally do the work of the theology, but by their nature they are not creedal and are limited in authority. The Prayer Book is the guide by which we may rightly understand the teaching of the Articles of Religion. In a primary way, we believe what we pray in the liturgy. The test of authentic Anglican doctrine, and therefore Catholic or universally-held doctrine, is the Prayer Book. 2,000 years of unbroken Apostolic teaching, Holy Tradition, is marvellously synthesised and codified in the BCP. The Prayer Book enshrines nothing less but the ancient Christian Faith of the entire Western Church.

Friday, February 06, 2009

ACNA: Not In Anglican Communion

Virtueonline on the recent Anglican Communion Primates' Meeting which just concluded in Alexandria, Egypt. The following is from an interview with the Primates of the Southern Cone and Uganda. The main thrust of the statement below is that although the new Anglican Church in North America is in communicatio in sacris with a number of Anglican Communion Provinces, it remains formally outside the Anglican Communion and does not have the recognition of the See of Canterbury or of the machinery of the Anglican Communion.

The Primates interviewed clearly indicate that the formal structures of the Lambeth-Canterbury Communion will never recognise ACNA as an Anglican Communion jurisdiction.
What will ultimately happen if the Anglican Communion refuses to recognise ACNA as the 39th Province? An ongoing lack of recognition by Canterbury will likely render ACNA a new 'continuing church,' albeit a predominantly neo-evangelical 'continuing church' which authorises the ordination of women, modern liturgical forms and the contemporary scriptural hermeneutic. It should noted that an inability or unwillingness on the part of the Anglican Communion to recognise the ACNA will place ACNA in the same position vis-a-vis the Canterbury Communion as that currently held by the Anglican Province of America. The APA enjoys sacramental communion with Provinces of the Anglican Communion, such as Nigeria, by Covenant Union, and Southern Cone, by virtue of the Primatial Patronage of the Federation of Anglican Churches in the Americas, but is not in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury. The difference, of course, for our part is that the APA possesses the traditional Anglican theological and liturgical patrimony and affirms the male character of all three grades of the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Confusingly in a television interview, the Primates in question state that they and their churches are definitely not in communion with some Primates and Provinces of the Anglican Communion, and in communion with others, yet all Primates and Provinces remain fully in communion with Canterbury. They assert that dioceses and clergy which have left the Episcopal Church and have realigned with Global South jurisdictions and/or ACNA are still in the Anglican Communion, and yet there is no 'communion' in the Anglican Communion anymore. Hearing this I feel bewilderment upon discombobulation. Surely the meaning of the word 'communion' is thus stretched to its outer limit in such a case. The concept of 'mediate communion,' when two parties are not in communion with each other but both are in communion with a third, seems to have a new lease on life. It is fair to say that, where the Lambeth Communion is now concerned, 'communion' and what it means depend upon with whom one speaks... Needless to say, it will be fascinating to see how these developments play out over time.

I found the last sentence of this quote from the interview most puzzling indeed...

'Both Primates [Archbishop Gregory Venables and Archbishop Henry Oromobi]
reiterated that there was no recognition of the new North American Anglican
Province (ACNA).

There seems little likelihood of this happening because it would have to go
through the Anglican Consultative Council, which totally toes the liberal line
and so it would never happen.

(Archbishop Rowan) Williams had earlier pointed out that there was no
official request only a Common Cause partnership.

Both men said, however, that ACNA is thoroughly Anglican and would be in
fellowship with Anglicans like themselves, but they need to propose
something.

Venables and Orombi both articulated their position by saying that while
the Anglican Communion was not a Communion any more, they would still be in the
Anglican Communion.'

Monday, February 02, 2009

One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism

Our Lord Jesus Christ is unique in the history of mankind in that He is the perfect and sinless Lamb of God without spot or blemish, like us in every way, that is perfectly and totally human with a complete human nature, and yet without sin (Hebrews 4). Our Lord is True God and True Man in One Person - to be more precise, He is One Divine Person, God the Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, with two natures, human and divine. Therefore, as Redeemer and Saviour of the world, he came not to be saved but to save the human race. Jesus Christ is God and does not require salvation - He imparts it. But the salvation He imparts is nothing less than making us the 'partakers of the divine nature' (II St Peter 1.4), Jesus comes to make us the children of God by adoption and grace; He comes to infuse His own Divine Life and sonship into us, making us with one with Him and thus one with the Holy Trinity. Because salvation consists not only in freedom from sin and forgiveness of sins both original and actual, that is, forgiveness both of the sin we inherit from Adam and that obtains in us because we are human, and the sin we personally commit, but also in being made one with God, Our Lord instituted a mean by which He might take his own human nature, sinless and glorified, and impart it to us, implant it in us. We are united to Christ in His human nature and in His death and resurrection through Baptism (Romans 6).

We are saved from sin, yes, but more, for communion with God. The initial instrument which Our Lord instituted for imparting the grace of His Incarnation to human beings through their own humanity is Baptism. The sacraments do not only symbolise the conferral of grace; they symbolise what they cause and cause what they symbolise. They are more than symbols of God's previous action upon our souls - they are effective or efficient causes of grace. They do what they symbolise. God uses them as instruments and channels to convey His own life to us. The sacramental principle is based on the Incarnation: God became man and assumed human nature in order to make man one with God. Now Christ takes the sacraments and conveys through them that same human nature which He perfected and redeemed. We get a 'human nature transplant' through the sacraments, because the sacraments are the physical way by which God, who became physical for us, communicates Himself to us. We do not have to become something different or other than human to be saved - grace now comes to us through the sacraments, which allow us to receive grace in our capacity as human beings. As Saint Leo the Great says, Our Lord's visible presence on earth has now passed into the sacraments. The sacraments are Christ Himself acting to save and sanctify us, Christ made visible under the mystic elements and signs of the sacramental order.

When Our Lord became Man, He used the visible and outward and material, His human nature, to convey and give the inward and supernatural and spiritual, His divine life - today, after the Ascension, this is precisely what He does in the sacraments: He uses the material as the vehicle of the spiritual. In Christ, the one now communicates the other...

As the Holy Fathers teach: In the waters of His own Baptism, Our Lord was not saved from sin, for He was sinless, nor were His sins washed away - as the Sinless One stepped into the Jordan to be baptised, He Himself sanctified the waters by His power to become the mean by which our sins are washed away. Now Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost own and use the waters of Baptism to cleanse us from sin and give us grace. 'Repent all of you and be baptised for the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the Holy Spirit' (Acts 2).

The Baptism of Our Lord by Saint John Baptist in the Jordan River is a theophany or Christophany, a revelation or manifestation of Christ as God. The Holy Trinity is revealed in the action of Jesus' Baptism - the Father speaks, the Spirit descends in the form of a dove and lights upon the Son, Who stands as God revealed in human flesh. The Holy Trinity conveys and reveals Himself in Jesus' Baptism to show that when we are baptised we are made the sons of God, filii in Filio, sons in the Son, and partakers of the Holy Trinity. In Baptism we 'put on Christ' (Galatians 3) and we enter the life of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost (St Matthew 28). We are revealed to be Trinitarian and the sons of God by grace and regeneration in our own Baptism. In Baptism we become by grace what Christ is by nature. We are identified with Christ and we become one with Him. 'Baptism doth now save us...' (I St Peter 3).

St John 3.16 is often prooftexted to assert that one only need exercise a mental assent or personal faith in Christ in order to be saved by Him without concern for the Church or sacraments. In theology this is called prooftexting, lifting one passage out of Scripture and establishing it as truth apart from, or even divorced from, other Scriptural passages that illuminate the passage in question and bring it its true meaning. The passages of Scripture must always be read in context, contextually within the pericope and book in which they are found. St John 3.16 is a classic example. The answer to the question is St John 3.5, which is part of the same passage and provides its proper context. 'Verily, verily I say unto you: unless one is born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.' Our Lord clearly associates the power and effect of belief in Him with the new birth by water and the Holy Ghost, which the Church has always known to be Baptism (BCP 297).

Baptism is the new birth, the Laver of Regeneration (Titus), the Cleansing of the Washing of Water by the Word (Ephesians 5). Indeed we must have personal faith in Our Lord in order for His grace to be effective in our souls and for His grace to bear fruit, but personal faith is never separated from the action of grace found in the sacraments, which confer and infuse the grace of justification and salvation. The new birth given by water and the Holy Ghost, the outward sign and inward grace of Baptism, infuses into our souls the three gifts that last forever and make it possible for us to have communion with God: faith, hope and love (I Corinthians 13).

Through the theological virtues of faith, hope and love we can trust in God, have confidence in God and be united in charity to God. The infused virtues and graces of Baptism make it possible for men fully and completely so to believe 'that all that believe in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.' Faith itself is a gift from God, a grace given by God to men without the merit or deserving of men. No one can create or engender saving faith in oneself. It is sola gratia, grace alone. Baptism is sola gratia, grace alone. Baptism is the Sacrament of Faith, which supernaturally gives us the gift of saving Faith and unites us to the Faith of the Church unto salvation. 'Faith' is not merely a personal or subjective experience, or an individual act of trust or assurance in God, it is the power and virtue given by God to the whole Church, the total Christ, Head and Members, whereby we are all joined together into the Mystery of Christ as One Body. Baptism inserts us into the Faith of Christ, which is possessed and proclaimed in the unity of the Family of God.

God often leads adult persons to faith before Baptism through what is called prevenient grace, 'the grace that goes before,' the grace of God given to men so that may come to Our Lord. This prevenient grace is a wonderful mystery and gift of God and is orientated towards its fulfilment in the grace of Baptism. For infant children, baptised as they are before the age of reason, it is the Faith of the Church that actualises baptismal grace in them. Children can be baptised and exercise saving faith in the baptismal act because it is the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, the Sacrament of Christ in the world, which believes in them, for them, and through them...

Sunday, February 01, 2009

'Once Saved, Always Saved'

The common evangelical doctrine of 'once saved, always saved' is based on Calvin's doctrines of the total depravity of man after the Fall, which Calvin holds destroys man's freedom and will, and of double predestination, the predetermination of those who will be saved and those who will not by God in His eternal decree before the creation and fall of man. Calvin held that all men are either saved or damned, elect or reprobated, before they are born - by the sovereign decision of God without any regard for human freedom or free-will, or for human faith in, correspondence and cooperation with, or response to the divine initiative. The Prayer Book and Articles of Religion, which embody the ancient Catholic faith of the whole Church, reject the Calvinist doctrines of the Fall of Man and double predestination, and with them, the view of 'once saved, always saved.' We believe man is saved solely by the grace of God which is freely received and lived in human freedom. Man must consent to his own salvation and sanctification, for God will not force us to be saved. 'Work out your own salvation in fear and trembling.' And salvation is itself of process of God's grace, which begins in the free and undeserved gift of justification given in Baptism and moves to sanctification by the Holy Ghost in the Sacraments and the Christian life, in which we participate by our active response to God's grace.

We must, by faith, hope and love, choose to remain in the state of salvation that leads to eternal life - the process of salvation requires our willing cooperation with and obedience to the Faith and to the grace freely given us: 'I heartily thank our heavenly Father, that he hath called me to this state of salvation, through Jesus Christ our Saviour. And I pray unto God to give me his grace, that I may continue in the same unto my life's end' (Office of Instruction, BCP 284). We may choose to reject our salvation if we reject God's holy will and commandments.

PNCC-G4 Dialogue

The Anglican Joint Synods (G4) - Polish National Catholic Church Dialogue Meeting was held from 28th-30th January 2020 at Saint Barnabas Du...