Friday, February 29, 2008

Vatican Rules Modalist Baptism Formula Invalid

Made public today were the responses of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to two questions concerning the validity of Baptism conferred with certain non-standard formulae.
The first question is: "Is a Baptism valid if conferred with the words 'I baptise you in the name of the Creator, and of the Redeemer, and of the Sanctifier', or 'I baptise you in the name of the Creator, and of the Liberator, and of the Sustainer'"?
The second question is: "Must people baptised with those formulae be baptised in forma absoluta?"
The responses are: "To the first question, negative; to the second question, affirmative".
Benedict XVI, during his recent audience with Cardinal William Joseph Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, approved these responses, which were adopted at the ordinary session of the congregation, and ordered their publication. The text of the responses bears the signatures of Cardinal Levada and of Archbishop Angelo Amato S.D.B., secretary of the dicastery.
An attached note explains that the responses "concern the validity of Baptism conferred with two English-language formulae within the ambit of the Catholic Church. ... Clearly, the question does not concern English but the formula itself, which could also be expressed in another language".
"Baptism conferred in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit", the note continues, "obeys Jesus' command as it appears at the end of the Gospel of St. Matthew. ... The baptismal formula must be an adequate expression of Trinitarian faith, approximate formulae are unacceptable.
"Variations to the baptismal formula - using non-biblical designations of the Divine Persons - as considered in this reply, arise from so-called feminist theology", being an attempt "to avoid using the words Father and Son which are held to be chauvinistic, substituting them with other names. Such variants, however, undermine faith in the Trinity".
"The response of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith constitutes an authentic doctrinal declaration, which has wide-ranging canonical and pastoral effects. Indeed, the reply implicitly affirms that people who have been baptised, or who will in the future be baptised, with the formulae in question have, in reality, not been baptised. Hence, they must them be treated for all canonical and pastoral purposes with the same juridical criteria as people whom the Code of Canon Law places in the general category of 'non- baptised'".

Thursday, February 28, 2008

'Life After Life After Death'

The Right Reverend N. T. Wright, Bishop of Durham in the Church of England, has recently begun a powerful and utterly captivating media campaign on behalf of his new book Surprised by Hope, in which he challenges conventional notions about death and the life after death for Christians: he teaches in fabulously lucid and comprehensible language the Anglican Catholic, and most especially, New Testament doctrine of the Intermediate State, Paradise, the Day of Judgement, the General Resurrection and the Life of the World to come - the New Creation of heaven and earth as one reality, the future world transfigured by divine grace. He especially challenges the common evangelical belief which holds Christians simply 'die and go to heaven.' The popular platonic and gnostic assertions that we cease to be physical and material in the World to Come and that we will not have physical bodies and lives in the Resurrection are marvellously toppled in favour of the biblical teaching of a future divinised, deified material creation, which will be in communion with God the Father, resplendent with the glory and power of the Holy Ghost and filled with the Resurrection Life of Jesus Christ. Bishop Wright, as he says, is concerned with 'life after life after death.' His traditional Anglican and Catholic catechesis on this subject has never been clearer or more needed. The following websites give an excellent overview of Bishop Wright's teaching, which is, in a word, brilliant! What Happens When You Die?,8599,1710844,00.html: Christians Wrong About Heaven, Says Bishop Anglican TV interview with the Bishop

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Why I Love the APA

In case I have not said this before!...

To put it in the most basic terms, I became an Anglican at the tender age of 12 because I was convinced, both spiritually and intellectually, that Anglicanism is not a sect or denomination, but simply the Catholic Church of the English-speaking world, the ancient Catholic Church of the British Isles, possessive of all the essential elements or constitutive characteristics of the Church founded by Jesus Christ. That inherent catholicity and apostolicity of Anglicanism makes her a living manifestation or portion of the One Church, for Anglicanism has no faith or order of her own, only the Catholic Faith and Creeds and Catholic Sacraments and Ministry of the Catholic Church of the ages, without addition or diminution. To this day I still hold that conviction with the greatest intensity and belief. Anglicanism is the Church qua Church. Such a position is not a theological value judgement of other churches or ecclesial communities, it is simply what I believe and know Anglicanism to be, a pure historical form of Catholicism, a jurisdiction continuous with the Church of the Apostles and Fathers. Anglicanism is Western Orthodoxy, the Western counterpart of the Eastern Churches, maintaining and preserving the ancient Christianity of the Western Rite. Anglicanism, real Traditional Book of Common Prayer Anglicanism, is not The True Church. But it is A True Church. I am an Anglican because I believe Anglicanism is not only 'mere Christianity' - it is, I profess, 'mere Catholicism' in its heart and soul. After all, we do not want simply 'mere' Christianity per se, but 'more' Christianity, the fullness of the Christian Faith.

It can truly be said that once one is an Anglican, one is always an Anglican, in the deepest recesses of one's being.

As to the Anglican Province of America: The APA offers a jurisdictional and administrative stability my previous jurisdiction did not possess when I left it. I have discovered the APA inculcates a culture of classical Anglicanism which I believe most closely resembles the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion in the days of their orthodoxy. The APA has consciously avoided the nagging temptation to recreate Anglicanism in its own image or with a new and different culture, but wilfully intends to continue what is most edifying, what is best, in the received Anglican tradition of historical reality and experience. Most people remark when encountering the APA in worship and practice that it feels like the Episcopal Church before the rot of heresy set in. I believe that is absolutely true. The Affirmation of Saint Louis (1977) states succinctly: 'In this gathering witness of Anglicans and Episcopalians, we continue to be what we are. We do nothing new. We form no new body, but continue as Anglicans and Episcopalians.' The APA, in my personal experience, most closely abides by this mandate. The APA is not a form of 'neo-Anglicanism.' It simply is Anglicanism as that wonderful ecclesiastical and religious phenomenon has been handed down to us. We continue the mission of the Church Catholic as we have received it. For that reason I do believe the future is very bright indeed for the APA, as we are without a doubt one of the fastest-growing and most stable Continuing Churches in the USA: we are currently 75 parishes and 132 clergy across the country. The Lord has blessed and continues to bless us as we focus on being orthodox Prayer Book Catholics in the Anglican Tradition.

Barthian Neo-Protestantism

Here are some fissiparous and unorganised thoughts on Barth...

Karl Barth is a twentieth-century manifestation and embodiment of puritanism, of a biblicist protestantism that adheres to sola scriptura and sola fide. As such he denies any role to the authentic expression or interpretation of Scriptural doctrine as conveyed by and enshrined in Church Tradition. His focus is on the renewal of the magisterial protestant confessional religion of the sixteenth century and so his version of 'neo-orthodoxy' is better described as neo-protestant orthodoxy in the mould of Luther, Calvin and the sixteenth century reformers. During seminary I took a marvellous course on the work and writings of Archbishop William Temple of Canterbury, one of the greatest modern orthodox theologians in the Church of England. When the subject of Karl Barth arose, we discovered very quickly that the Anglican approach to Holy Scripture and the necessity and authority of Holy Tradition was at antithetical odds with the strictly 'sola scripturist' approach of Barth, whose Church Dogmatics are a carefully designed and nuanced re-presentation of the systematic theology of the Calvinist reformation. For Barth, the Bible alone is the standard of dogmatic truth and Christian practice, in opposition to the belief that the Church needs the consensus fidelium and consensus patricum of the earliest centuries.

Barth states that Scripture must be read and applied fresh in every generation on the basis of its direct content, to the exclusion of any applicative or hermeneutical role of Tradition as the transmission of the Gospel in the context of the living and worshipping communion of the Church.

In this respect, Barth is radically anti-Catholic, or at least anti-ecclesial, in his assertion of an absence of any collective and consentient Church authority in the transmission of the Scriptural kerygma. For Anglicans, of course, it is 'the Church to teach, the Bible to prove.' The Bible is the Church's Book, which is only rightly and authoritatively interpreted through the lens of the Church's ongoing life, witness and worship. Scriptura omnia continet, Scripture contains all things necessary to salvation, prima scriptura, Scripture is the uniquely-inspired and primary, most important, source of doctrine and practice for the Church's life - but the Holy Catholic Church and the Anglican formularies do not teach sola Scriptura, that is, that the Bible alone, apart from the canon of ecclesiastical tradition inherited from the Creeds, Councils and Fathers, establishes the regula fidei, the Rule of Faith, the salvific doctrinal deposit of Christian belief. Bible and Church are inseparable, for the Bible was written by the Church, in the Church, and for the Church. Barth maintains that even Scripture itself cannot be strictly equated with revelation, the Word of God, and so Tradition is regarded in an even dimmer light as a divinising of human thought and human modes of speech and language.

He holds that the Church confuses God with the Bible and the Church! In his understandable and praiseworthy effort to demolish liberalism, a quasi-Christian form of secular humanism, he undermines the genuine article by attacking Christian and world history and professes that no human form or creation however noble can infallibly convey revelation or signify God's Word - the baby goes out with the bathwater. Humanity, all human form, transmogrifies into ideology, merely human principles. Barth accused Catholic Tradition of making itself into a divine revelation, although he asserts it is merely a human construct. Tradition, for Barth, is merely human philosophy, a concept anathema to him, for he sees philosophy as man's attempt to make his own word God's Word. Barth holds that Tradition impedes and confuses the revelation God intends to give through Scripture, for Tradition can only be a human and fallible enterprise. The most severe critique one can offer, I think, concerning Barth is that his systematic theology seems to deny any real Incarnation of God the Word as Man, for Barth seems to say that no human realities can be associated with God to such an extent that God actually and unfailingly mediates Himself and communicates His Life and Word through that which is human. God will not limit Himself to the human, and yet that is precisely the point of the Incarnation, the willing kenosis and self-abasement and self-limitation of God to the human sphere. Or, at least, I should think such an anti-Incarnational stance seems to be the logical consequence of his view of Scripture and Tradition, which strikingly divorces God from the process of human history and society. A God who does not communicate His Word infallibly in Scripture and indefectibly in the Church and her Tradition cannot ultimately be a God who assumed human nature in the Incarnation. I would actually dare to state that Barth, being a neo-Calvinist, brings Calvinism to its proper conclusion, which is nothing short of gnosticism, that God eschews human life and the material world and remains purposely apart from His own creation, and thus the only access to God is through intellectual noetic gnosis and the spirit, not the world of matter redeemed, transfigured and sacramentalised by the Incarnation and Atonement.

Anglo-Catholicism and Barthian neo-orthodoxy agree to some degree on the inspiration and authority of the Holy Scriptures, and both serve to be strong and principled reactions against theological liberalism-modernism, but from those points forward the two movements part company in most profound ways and could not be more different. Barthian neo-orthodoxy is really a form of sixteenth-century reformation-based discarnate biblicism. Barth produces yet another instance of confessional protestantism's exchange of one form of tradition for another: Apostolic Tradition, the Traditio Ecclesiae handed down by Christ through the Apostles and their Successors in the episcopate, is displaced for a radical synthetic hermeneutic loosely based on the Calvinist confessions in which even Scripture itself is not held to be identical with the revelation of the Word of God, although the revelation is given through Scripture as a condescension of God's love and mercy. Barth's approach to Scripture is the classical protestant model, and thus is, frankly, Quranic, the Bible alone, but he then empties the Scriptures of their inerrancy by being unwilling to state that Our Lord is actually present in and uniquely linked to the Scriptures. Thus, Anglicans, with their sacramental view of creation, the Church and the Bible, have a higher view of Scripture than Barth himself.

I may have completely and utterly erred in my reading of Barth, but this is what I remember of my reading of him from my seminary days...

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Validity of Holy Baptism

Thank you so very much for your excellent letter about your Baptism. Please rest assured that you have no need to doubt the validity of your Baptism in Jesus Christ, for all that is necessary for a valid Baptism is the administration of the sacrament with the proper matter and form, water that flows on the head with the simultaneous recitation of the sacramental form, the Name of the Blessed Trinity. Water and the Name of the Trinity are all that are necessary for valid Baptism, regardless of the interior intention of the celebrant, so long as the ecclesiastical community in which the baptism is given affirms the dogma of the Holy Trinity. Although non-Trinitarian baptisms could theoretically be valid, as was the case with Arian baptism, today the Church declines to recognise the validity of baptisms conferred by unitarian or polytheistic sects, such a Jehovah's Witnesses and the Mormons.

In 1949 the Roman Catholic Holy Office in an official notice recognised the validity of almost all Trinitarian Christian baptism, including that of Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians and, of course, Episcopalians. There is only 'one baptism for the remission of sins,' which is the Church's one baptism, and so long as the matter and form of the sacrament as instituted by Our Lord and possessed by the Catholic Church are used, the sacrament is always, always valid ex opere operato - the sacrament is valid because of the covenantal power and promise of Christ, Who alone is the true Priest Celebrant and Administrator of all the sacraments, including Baptism. All the baptised, regardless of what sect or ecclesial body to which they belong, are in fact baptised into the Holy Catholic Church and incorporated into Christ by virtue of the One Baptism of the One Lord and One Faith (Ephesians 4).

Even the Eastern Orthodox recognise, under normal circumstances, the validity of all Trinitarian Christian baptism. You see, the interior intention of the celebrant does not effect or convey the efficacy or validity of Holy Baptism; rather it is the very matter and form given directly by Our Lord Himself. Even Jews, pagans and atheists can validly baptise in an emergency; they can administer clinical baptism or baptism in extremis, so long as they merely intend to perform the rite of Baptism as Christians understand it, in other words, to 'do what the Church does' in a general sense. Baptism is the universal sacrament of salvation, and so Our Lord has made it to be the easiest sacrament to administer, as it is the most necessary. Thus it is virtually impossible to invalidate a Christian baptism, if one uses the matter, water, and form, Trinitarian formula, given by Christ. Only those heretics who actually change the Trinitarian formula to something other than that instituted by the Saviour in Saint Matthew 28 can really invalidate a baptism - for example, if one were to change the form to 'Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier,' as many wrong-headed Episcopalians and even Roman Catholics have done in recent years, such a modalist formula would render a purported baptism invalid. Even the use of the form 'in the Name of Jesus Christ' is of doubtful validity, and such a baptism would have to be re-administered sub conditione, conditionally. But the normal administration of Baptism in any Christian communion, with water and the invocation of the Thrice Holy Name, is always and everywhere valid.

To quote from an earlier post on the sacraments:

Holy Baptism depends for its sacramental validity upon those same five components which are necessary for any valid sacrament: proper minister, matter, form, subject, and intention. The necessary intention for a valid baptism is, simply, 'generally to do what the Church does.' This is not to intend what the Church intends, but to do what the Church does, i.e., simply baptise. This general intention suffices, even if the minister and the subject hold to an heretical doctrine of the sacrament being conferred. So long as one intends seriously to perform the rite of baptism that is, seriously to perform the Christian rite however understood, the intention is valid for the administration of the sacrament. So long as one merely intends to do what Our Lord Jesus Christ or the true Church do in baptism (even in opposition to the Catholic Church's doctrine), such an baptism is valid, even if heretical views are maintained on baptism itself. Heretical views on the sacrament of order do not invalidate baptism (see below the decision of the Roman Holy Office on Oceanic Methodist Baptisms 1872). This position is precisely the position Saint Augustine of Hippo took against the Donatist schism, and it has been the general and authoritative teaching of the Western Church since the fourth century. Saint Thomas Aquinas echoes this teaching in the Summa Theologica, Supplement, Question 38, Second Article. Cardinal Robert Bellarmine defends this very point in his On the Sacraments In Gen. I.21. Those who dissent from the Catholic Church can validly baptise, even if they hold doctrines on the very sacraments themselves at odds with the Church, as long as the Church's basic rule on baptism is preserved.

Sacramental intention, for Anglicans at least, is usually understood as external or exterior intention, which is manifested ritually, in the liturgical rite used for the administration of the sacrament. Internal intention or personal intention are not usually brought into the discussion because it is impossible to determine in any given case what the personal or interior intention of the minister of a sacrament is. If the sacraments depend on the personal orthodoxy or right belief or interior disposition of the minister, no sacrament could ever be held to have a moral certainty of validity, as one could never determine such a needful state in the mind or heart of the bishop or priest in question. Sacraments are by nature ecclesial, ecclesiastical, and this is particularly the case with baptism, which makes us members of the Church. Sacraments belong to the Holy Catholic Church, and as such to a particular local Church specifically. What matters is the Church's intention. The necessary intention of the Church, and of the minister who functions publicly as the agent, officer and representative of the Church, is put forward in the Church's official rite, the matter and form, used for the conferral of the sacrament.

The Roman See's Response to the dubia concerning the Methodist Baptisms in Oceania (1872):

All theologians agree that concomitant error (or heresy) in the mind of the minister does not necessarily vitiate sacramental validity: nor does even openly professed lack of Catholic intention, provided that there be present the minimum intention of doing what Christ or the true Church does. Many decisions of the Holy See have confirmed this principle, perhaps the most often quoted in this context being the ruling of the Holy Office in 1872 about the validity of Methodist baptisms in Central Oceania. Two dubia had been proposed:

1. Whether baptism administered by those heretics [Methodists] is doubtful on account of defect of intention to do what Christ willed, if an express declaration was made by the minister before he baptised that baptism had no effect on the soul?

2. Whether baptism so conferred is doubtful if the aforesaid declaration was not expressly made immediately before the conferring of baptism, but had often been asserted by the minister, and the same doctrine was openly preached in that sect?

To these the Sacred Congregation replied:

Reply to the first question: in the negative, because despite the error about the effects of baptism, the intention of doing what the Church does is not excluded. The second question: provided for in the answer to the first.

The implications for the validity of Anglican Orders are clear as well...

The Procession of the Holy Ghost

The Procession of the Holy Ghost from the Father through the Son (or 'and' the Son - if one accepts the Western addition of the filioque to the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed) as professed by the whole Catholic Church in the great Symbol of Faith of the First Council of Constantinople (AD 381) is in fact a divine revelation given directly to the Church from God and is recorded in Holy Scripture. In the Creed, the Church only expresses and codifies that truth of supernatural revelation, the Word of God, which was given by the Lord Jesus to the Apostles and in turn to the Apostolic Church. Anglican Catholics, like other Apostolic Christians, and in opposition to the claims of the Roman Church, unequivocally deny the possibility submitted by John Henry Newman of a 'development of doctrine' or 'progressive revelation.' The Faith Once Delivered to the Saints was totally complete in its content and revelation with the death of the last Apostle and has been transmitted indefectibly in the whole Catholic Church through the centuries by the Holy Scriptures and Holy Tradition, for Scripture and Tradition are two streams or modes of one revelation given by Christ to the Church, the primacy of revelation being given to Scripture, which alone is inspired. Rome's highly suspect theology of doctrinal development rejects the axiomatic Canon of Saint Vincent of Lerins in his Commonitorium, the famous Vincentian Canon, which stipulates that only that which has been believed 'everywhere, always and by all' is truly and properly called Catholic. The Creeds and the teachings of the Holy Fathers only explain, explicate, interpret and organise the unique revelation contained in Holy Scripture, but they do not innovate, they do not introduce new doctrine or seek to improve upon that which has been definitively revealed.

The language of the Constantinopolitan Creed uses Holy Scripture to describe the relationship of God the Holy Ghost to God the Father, Saint John 15.26: But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me.

The AD 381 Creed deliberately uses biblical language and concepts for the Holy Ghost in order to avoid the controversy which emerged at Nicea I (AD 325) when the non-biblical word homoousios 'of one substance' was introduced to explain the relationship of God the Son to God the Father. After the last row over terms not found in the New Testament, the Fathers of AD 381 settled for using more familiar terminology.

It Is The Mass That Matters

Thank you for your query regarding the use of the word Mass: the term is one of the most ancient titles for the mystery of the Holy Eucharist and has been used by Anglicans before, during and after the Reformation. So for us, there should be absolutely no reason not to use this venerable and august title for the Sacrament of the Lord's Body and Blood. Most Anglicans I have known use the term constantly, and in private conversation I always refer to the Mass as the Mass. Saint Ambrose of Milan, one of the Doctors of the Church and one of the greatest Western Fathers, the mentor of Saint Augustine of Hippo, uses the term in a sermon on the liturgy (Sermon XX) in the mid fourth century. It derives from the formula invoked by the deacon at the end of the Eucharistic liturgy in Latin: Ite missa est, 'go it is finished.' The term Mass originally meant dismissal, but very early came to be used to refer to the entire celebration of the Eucharist. Eventually the term Mass came to be the universal title of the Eucharistic liturgy in the entire Western Church. At the Reformation, even Martin Luther retains the use of the term Mass, which is still officially the name of the Eucharistic rite in the Augsburg Confession and the Book of Concord. Swedish Lutherans today, who retain the Apostolic Succession, still call the Eucharist the Mass. The term Mass is the heritage of the whole Church Catholic.

The Church of England has always historically used the term, and it was thus incorporated into the formal title of the Anglican Eucharistic rite in the 1549 English Book of Common Prayer. The title is 'The Supper of the Lord and Holy Communion, commonly called the Mass.' So the first reformed English liturgy referred to the Mass as the Mass. Since the nineteenth century, the term has been used more widely and freely amongst those who call themselves Anglo-Catholics, but the term has never been strictly limited to Anglicans of any particular theological position. The term was recovered and cherished by the fathers of the Oxford Movement and their successors. Low churchmen or protestant-minded Anglicans do not favour the term and look upon it with grave suspicion, falsely attributing to it the character of Papism or Romanism. The term well predates the creation of the modern Tridentine Roman Church by many centuries and has been used in the Eastern Churches as well as in the West. It is true that the term definitely affirms specific Catholic, as opposed to Roman, doctrines, especially the Real Objective Change and Presence (the Elements of Holy Communion being transformed into the True Body and Blood of Christ) and the doctrine of the Eucharistic Sacrifice (the Eucharist being the making-present and re-presentation sacramentally of the one perfect Sacrifice of Christ in an objective and unbloody manner), in opposition of low-church or protestant teaching on the Eucharist, and therefore it does have certain 'political' overtones for that reason. 'Mass' does not equate 'transubstantiation' but it does equate 'Real Presence' and 'Real Offering.' All good Catholic Anglicans call priests priests and Mass Mass because these words have profound theological meaning in which the Presence and Sacrifice of Christ in the Eucharist are unambiguously affirmed. As Anglo-Catholics are wont to say, 'It is the Mass that matters.'

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Trent on Justification

Dear N.,

I have just finished reading the the Decrees and Canons of the Council of Trent on justification, which thing is very lengthy and somewhat tiresome! The area with which Anglicans have the sharpest disagreement with Trent concerning justification is over the matter of condign merit and the doctrine of temporal retributive punishment due for sins whether in this life or in purgatory. We would label the doctrines that regenerated man inherently, even though it is by virtue of his inseparable unity with Christ, merits more justification or grace of justification through his own good works, and that man is required to suffer temporal punishment due for sins not remitted by grace, as 'erroneous and strange doctrines contrary to God's word.' We would say that in those areas the Church of Rome departs, not from protestantism, but from the universal consensus of the Undivided Catholic Church of the First Millennium and the Canon of Saint Vincent of Lerins. Trent directly contradicts aspects of Articles XIII, XIV, and XXII - although I believe a strong argument could be made that Articles XI and XII are not wholly incompatible with Tridentine theology as they affirm particular truths regarding faith and works reasserted by Trent. On the matter of justification itself, apart from further considerations of how justification advances and grows or how sanctification relates to justification, we are in very close agreement.

One great difficulty for us in grappling with the complicated categories of Trent lies in that Anglicanism, like Eastern Orthodoxy, has no dogmatic or systematic theology part from the living Tradition of the Church contained in the liturgy, creeds, sacraments, councils and fathers, and therefore we have never developed the compartmentalised and overcategorised statements such as those dogmatised at Trent. Justification and sanctification are a mystery of God's love collaborating with man's freedom, and thus we have never attempted to scholasticise the wonder of God's redeeming and justifying power in the Tridentine manner. But clearly certain claims of Trent contradict New Testament and conciliar teaching on the nature of good works and their relationship to divinisation, although we assuredly believe that good works are essential to sanctification and to the process of becoming God-like, for good works are 'God Himself crowing His own achievements in His own children', they are the Christian virtues, theological and cardinal, in action, and they are indispensable. We agree that the Christian must be holy and good and obedient and must keep the Commandments. Where we disagree with Rome is in the precise relationship of necessary good works to claims of intrinsic merit and supererogation.

Anglicans, Trent, Newman and Justification

Dear N.

I too wish we had had more time to explore the Anglican approach to justification in relation to Article of Religion XVII and the Decrees of the Council of Trent, and I am sure we shall have more time to discuss it in time to come. You are absolutely right about the Anglican insistence, and the Article's affirmation, that we are justified solely for the sake of the merits of Christ, sola Christus, sola gratia, by Christ alone through grace alone. Anglicanism in the sixteenth century was right to make that re-affirmation of Pauline and Augustinian doctrine, and remains correct in that position today, as all the ancient Fathers of the Church would attest. The term 'sola fide', 'faith alone' is more complex, as it is never used in the New Testamant except by Saint James in 2.24, where he writes, 'we are not saved by faith alone!' Our doctrine of justification may indeed be described as a via media, the King's Highway going neither to the right or the left on this issue, as in so many others; the via media, historically understood, is simply the mainstream of ancient Christian orthodoxy, what the conciliar tradition of the Seven Ecumenical Councils has ever held on any given theological teaching, more of an ecumenical catholic consensus than a halfway house between Rome and Geneva. On the matter of justification, Anglicans from Hooker to Newman have agreed that justification is simultaneously declarative and imperative, both what God declares and what God does in the soul at Baptism and after. All of the Articles of Religion are interpreted through the lens of the Book of Common Prayer, our doctrinal magisterial or teaching office, and so in its proper context, while understanding justification as being formally and instrumentally caused by Baptism, Article XVII is certainly orthodox as it seeks to affirm that it is God's grace apprehended by faith, the supernatural virtue of faith infused in Baptism, that justifies man before God. In this sense, one could even carefully describe faith's apprehension and comprehension of baptismal grace as 'faith alone,' a term used by Saint Thomas Aquinas, 'faith alone shows true hearts the mystery.'

I perhaps exaggerate when I make the audacious claim that we may agree more with Trent than with Calvin or Luther, but at its heart, the Anglican position does accord very closely with the official Roman view in opposition to the exclusive 'legal' forensic perspective of the magisterial reformers of the sixteenth century. Trent does not, contrary to much protestant caricature, teach any form of works-righteousness or justification based on man's good works apart from grace: it holds essentially on the matter of initial justification itself what the whole Catholic Church holds, that through Baptism God declares and does what He desires for the soul, and in making us the children of God, members of Christ and heirs of the Kingdom of Heaven, he imparts to us theological virtues which in turn must be lived through faith and good works in order for them to become fruitful and bring us to salvation. That said, Rome clearly departs from Catholic consensus on the matter of its peculiar doctrines of condign merit and temporal retributive punishment due for sins.

Justification is God's Act for us, on us and to us, sanctification is our co-operation through faith and good works with the grace we have received as we are transformed more and more into the Likeness of Christ. Again, justification and sanctification can be distinguished in the mind intellectually but in reality they are never separated, for they are two dimensions of the same mystery. Regenerated man does not earn his salvation and cannot engender meritorious favour before God on his own strength: he is saved by faith working by love (Galatians 5.6), as the gift of faith, freely given by the God Who is Grace and Who graciously acts in us, lives and bears spiritual fruit through its activation in the life one made the temple of the Holy Trinity.

Below I share with you JH Newman's Tract XC on justification, which says substantially what I am saying in a much more profound way.

[Number 90]

§ 2.—Justification by Faith only.

Article xi.—"That we are justified by Faith only, is a most wholesome doctrine."

The Homilies add that Faith is the sole means, he sole instrument of justification. Now, to show briefly what such statements imply, and what they do not.

They do not imply a denial of Baptism as a means an instrument of justification; which the Homilies elsewhere affirm, as will be shown incidentally in a later section.

"The instrumental power of Faith cannot interfere with the instrumental power of Baptism; because Faith is the sole justifier, not in contrast to all means and agencies whatever, (for, it is not surely in contrast to our Lord's merits, or God's mercy,) but to all other graces. When, then, Faith is called the sole instrument, this means the sole internal instrument, not the sole instrument of any kind.

"There is nothing inconsistent, then, in Faith being the sole instrument of justification, and yet Baptism also the sole instrument, and that at the same time, because in distinct senses; an inward instrument in no way interfering with an outward instrument, Baptism may be the hand of the giver, and Faith the hand of the receiver."

Nor does the sole instrumentality of Faith interfere with the doctrine of Works as a mean also. And that it is a mean, the Homily of Alms-deeds declares in the strongest language, as will also be quoted in Section 11.

"An assent to the doctrine that Faith alone justifies, does not at all preclude the doctrine of Works justifying also. If, indeed, it were said that Works justify in the same sense as Faith only justifies, this would be a contradiction in terms; but Faith only may justify in one sense—Good Works in another:--and this is all that is here maintained. After all does not Christ only justify? How is it that the doctrine of Faith justifying does not interfere with our Lord's being the sole Justifier? It will, of course, be replied, that our Lord is the meritorious cause, and the Faith the means; that Faith justifies in a different and subordinate sense. As, then, Christ justifies in the sense in which He justifies alone, yet Faith also justifies in its own sense; so Works, whether moral or ritual, may justify us in their own respective senses, though in the sense in which Faith justifies, it only justifies.

The only question is, What is that sense in which Works justify, so as not to interfere with Faith only justifying? It may, indeed, turn out on inquiry, that the sense alleged will not hold, either as being unscriptural, or for any other reason; but, whether so or not, at any rate the apparent inconsistency of language should not startle persons; nor should they so promptly condemn those who, though they do not use their language, use St. James's. Indeed, is not this argument the very weapon of the Arians, in their warfare against the Son of God? They said, Christ is not God, because the Father is called the 'Only God.'"

Next we have to inquire in what sense Faith only does justify. In a number of ways, of which here two only shall be mentioned.

First, it is the pleading or impetrating principle, or constitutes our title to justification; being analogous among the graces to Moses' lifting up his hands on the Mount, or the Israelites eyeing the Brazen Serpent,--actions which did not merit God's mercy, but asked for it. A number of means go to effect our justification. We are justified by Christ alone, in that He has purchased the gift; by Faith alone, in that Faith asks for it; by Baptism alone, for Baptism conveys it; and by newness of heart alone, for newness of heart is the life of it.

And, secondly, Faith, as being the beginning of perfect or justifying righteousness, is taken for what it tends towards, or ultimately will be. It is said by anticipation to be that which it promises; just as one might pay a labourer his hire before he began his work. Faith working by love is the seed of divine graces, which in due time will be brought forth and flourish—partly in this world, fully in the next.

More on Justification

The most succinct definition I can give of justification is 'divine sonship,' the adoption of sons by God in which through Christ in the power of the Holy Ghost we are bold to call God 'Father' and we cry 'Abba, Father.' God in baptism and by faith makes us to be His sons in His only Son by the Holy Spirit, and so we are what we ought to be in Him by His grace - a grace that both declares us to be what we ought to be and makes us what we ought to be. We are filii in Filio, sons of God in the Son of God. The beauty of the orthodox doctrine of justification is that it does not exclude but rather joyfully embraces both aspects of the mystery of God's paternal action in us whereby the heavenly Father makes human beings His true children by adoption and grace: there is no lop-sided emphasis on one aspect over the other, for both the alien righteousness of Christ is given to us freely by grace and that alien righteousness then simultaneously becomes our own possession inherently in us because we are not merely called the sons of God, but are the sons of God in personal reality. 'Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is' (I St John 3.1-2).

The forensic, exterior and alien becomes the intrinsic, interior and personal. Classical protestant overreaction in the sixteenth century to real abuses of the sacramental system has been proven to be an overcorrection which has ignored half of the biblical data regarding how we are vindicated and declared right before God in Christ, for that vindication has its ultimate victory and accomplishment in making us what God declares us to be. The definition of heresy is in fact lop-sidedness, the emphasis of one aspect of the revealed truth of God's Word over another equally vital and true aspect of the same. The Greek word αἵρεσις, hairesis (from αἱρέομαι, haireomai, 'choice') means that those who embrace false doctrine choose one element of the truth over another and thus introduce an fatal imbalance into the proportion of faith.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Pope Benedict XVI's New Good Friday Prayer

Oremus et pro Iudaeis ut Deus et Dominus noster illuminet corda eorum, ut agnoscant Iesum Christum salvatorem omnium hominum.

Oremus. Flectamus genua. Levate.

Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui vis ut omnes homines salvi fiant et ad agnitionem veritatis veniant, concede propitius, ut plenitudine gentium in Ecclesiam tuam intrante omnis Israel salvus fiat. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.

Let us also pray for the Jews: That our God and Lord may illuminate their hearts, that they acknowledge Jesus Christ is the Savior of all men.

Let us pray. Kneel. Rise.

Almighty and eternal God, who want that all men be saved and come to the recognition of the truth, propitiously grant that even as the fulness of the peoples enters thy Church, all Israel be saved. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

A compelling commentary on Pope Benedict's strategic liturgical change...

May 2024 Comprovincial Newsletter

The Comprovincial Newsletter for May 2024 -