Sunday, April 1, 2012

Theological Revolution

Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail 9780819214768
I have been blogging a lot lately about the various and diverse reasons that led me down the Canterbury trail.  I am something of a mutt when it comes to theological breeding and that does not really bother me.  In fact I think that it gives me something of a reflective nature on the nuances of theology, but also, a kind disposition toward those who are "inconsistent" in their views.

The one thing that led me away from Lutheranism of the conservative brand (besides the seminaries being in Fort Wayne, In and St Louis, Mo, both of which are cooooold), was the hard line on theology.  It was an all or nothing approach to the Book of Concord.  That is wonderful.  They are a confessional people.  They love their Lutheranism (and I love quite a bit of it too!), but I knew that I couldn't commit all the way to Lutheranism…I mean, this blog used to have the tag "Too Lutheran for the Calvinists and too Calvinist for the Lutherans" for a reason.
My Reformed proclivities tended to make me shy away from Lutheranism, but those Lutheran tendencies made me feel way uncomfortable in Presbyterianism.

Then I read the Thirty-Nine Articles and felt my theological compass point north finally!  In them, I found something of a middle ground between the two great Reformation traditions.  Though some see Anglicanism being the via media between Protestantism and Catholicism, I find that it is more of a happy medium between the Calvinists and the Lutherans.

But, none-the-less, I don't disagree with the traditional view that the via media of Anglicanism is between the Roman Church and Protestantism.  There is a lot to be said about this in fact.  I just don't know what all to say about it personally.   I very much believe that in some way, the Anglican Church is the original ecumenical church.  I strove to find a balance between all the groups within it through a very structured common liturgy and through that lens moved forward.  Anglicanism takes seriously the dictum, "the law of prayer is the law of belief."  Of course, you can't have prayer that leads to proper belief without first having some concept of what one should believe in.  That foundational concept is often forgotten by some, I think.  And yet, I don't think that the Articles should be read in isolation from the Prayer Book, as some would like to do.  The question of what particular articles mean, I believe, is answered by how the liturgy phrases it and vice versa.  The Prayer Book is self-interpretting in a way, much like the Bible.  The Articles were not meant to be read in isolation from the liturgy and the liturgy was not meant to be read in isolation from the Articles.  Sort of like the New Testament can't be read apart from the Old and the Old the New.  It is very intriguing to me how that works.

So, where does that leave us?  It leaves us with a theology that strives to reflect the best of the first five centuries and that takes seriously the Church Fathers.  That is one of the most appealing aspects to me about Anglican theology.  There is a breadth to it; there is some "wiggle room" on purpose.  The "ecumenical" nature of Anglicanism demands that, I believe.  At the end of the day, the Articles give us a foundation upon which to build by showing us the boundaries of which our theology can go.  It is not cut and dry, like other confessions.  It does not seek to answer all of the questions that we may ask, but it gives us the proper starting point in our understanding.  That means, there will be disagreement on specifics, e.g. predestination.  Anglicanism contains both Calvinists and Arminians, but both can co-exist here because there is room for both views, but an outright semi-pelagianism is cast aside (as well as Pelagianism, too!).

At the end, it leaves room for mystery, something that we all crave when we approach the Creator of the universe.  It doesn't give us all the answers, but lets us bask in the kindness and mercy of the one who created all reality.  It allows us to say, "I don't know how God does this or that, but I know that it all works out at the end of the day because he is God and I am not."

This is all a little rambly and winding.  Sorry about that, but that is how I am sometimes.  Hopefully, I will have some more clarity in the coming days.


  1. Terrific post. I don't believe that the reformed Church of Cranmer, Latimer, Hooker, et. al. was ever self-consciously a via media, but rather encompassed, as you say, "a theology that strives to reflect the best of the first five centuries and that takes seriously the Church Fathers."

  2. I'm not sure about the first generation, but I feel like Hooker was that way. i just read a biography about him and the reason that he was never considered for consecration as bishop was because of his "Roman" sentiments. He, of course had some significant reformed/calvinistic leanings, but he was fiercely opposed to much Calvinistic exposition and showmanship (which it apparently was when their preaching is compared to guys like Hooker). Yet, even with some Reformed inclinations, he treaded very closely toward the early Fathers who really did have a variety of views about some topics. Apparently something that riled him more than anything else was limited atonement because it typically took away any assurance that people had who really felt the bitterness of sin in their lives. He spent the first part of ordained ministry in a preaching "debate" with his "assistant" in Cambridge and it dealt a great deal with Reformed thought and how it applied.

    Anyway, thanks for the kind words! I hadn't had a comment on anything recently, so I got pretty excited to see this. I know, I'm pretty cheesy...


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