How to interpret the 39 Articles.

Discussion in 'Faith, Devotion & Formation' started by bwallac2335, Jan 8, 2020.

  1. bwallac2335

    bwallac2335 Active Member

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    There are so many wide different interpretation of the articles that I don't even have a clue how to understand them. Some even say they were a product of their time and have little relevance upon today.
     
  2. Shane R

    Shane R Well-Known Member

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    A great question!

    Anglo-Catholics tend to minimize them. TEC ignores them. Cardinal Newman was creative with them. Are they embarrassing? Should they be interpreted in light of the Affirmation of St. Louis (a position often seen in the Continuum)?

    I can say this: they are not a confession of faith in the same way that the Book of Concord is for Lutherans.
     
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  3. bwallac2335

    bwallac2335 Active Member

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    So can be Anglican and not agree with all of them?
     
  4. Shane R

    Shane R Well-Known Member

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    Yes. They're mostly an issue for clergy for all practical purposes.
     
  5. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Shane's point outlines the modern reception of the Articles in some part of the Anglican world. That TEC ignores them should be a hint as to their importance, namely that they are one of the most powerful affirmations of Anglican orthodoxy that exist, in addition to the Book of Common Prayer. However TEC does not see them that way, which effectively untethered their communion from Anglican and Biblical orthodoxy, and led to women priests, gay marriage, gender-neutral madness, and now finally, to abortion-praising women-priests and transgender marriages.

    However, absence of the Articles doesn't necessary lead to heterodoxy in every case, and the Anglo-Catholics have (effectively) abandoned the Articles but clearly have not fallen into rejecting the Gospel. That being said, the Anglo-Catholics are becoming less and less Anglican, so by that standard the Articles are essential for keeping an Anglican identity. We see this A-C slide by looking at their present state today, as compared to the original signers of the Affirmation of St. Louis. The Anglo-Catholic world is slowly shedding its Anglican identity and morphing into a kind of Old Catholic thing; there are talks that they will go into open communion with the National Polish Catholic Church, etc. If you want to research what the Old Catholic "thing" is, it's basically the Roman Catholic worldview of the 19th century prior to the final proclamation of Papal Supremacy and Infallibility. The classical exponents of these views within our context are Newman, Allen, and the Ritualist Movement. Some of those who were still Article-subscribing Anglicans like Pusey, and Keble, are also sometimes corralled in here. It is basically a 19th century phenomenon, appropriated today by people who believe that that was the ideal capsule of what ideal Christianity looks like.

    Now the A-Cs tend to label the Articles as 'Protestant' but that word has lost all of its original meaning, and, Evangelicals typically reject the Articles just as well. Notably the Calvinist Presbyterians in the 17th century went to war against Anglicanism, and rejected the Articles, choosing instead to compose their Westminster Confession, which has serious heresies in it. In more recent times, modern Anglican evangelicals have had a tense view of the Articles, because they are uncomfortable with binding statements of doctrine. Evangelicalism is all about me and my bible and my feelings.

    In short, the Articles have been roughly handled by both the Anglo-Catholics and the Evangelicals. And yet the reason for that lies in the problems within the Anglo-Catholics and the Evangelical camps themselves, and have nothing to do with anything being wrong in the Articles. I think they're pretty incredible as summaries and statements of faith on complex and controverted subjects. They have also functioned as bastions of Anglican orthodoxy, which is why then the Gafcon movement has started, it adopted the Articles into its doctrinal core. For ACNA, the Articles are absolutely binding.

    I think as a statement of Anglican orthodoxy, and especially an Anglican mindset of what a church-binding document should look like, they are unparalleled in modern history, superior to the Council of Trent, the Book of Concord, or the Westminster Confession.

    This podcast discusses the huge dangers of composing long confessional documents, which all other Churches fell prey to, and we with our Articles were the only ones who escaped unscathed: https://anglican.audio/2019/04/15/fh32-on-being-reformed-debates-over-a-theological-identity/
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2020
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  6. bwallac2335

    bwallac2335 Active Member

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    So can you be Anglican and disagree with one or two of them and yet accept that they are a solid foundation to adhere to and come back to as a basis for things.
     
  7. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    You can be an Anglican and remain unconvinced, or neutral about something in them, but I don't think you can completely reject them and be 100% Anglican. That being said, in practical terms they are only demanded of the Clergy, so I don't think anyone is going to come up to you and question you about them. You as a layman have all the time to consider them, weigh them, and weigh what happened among church movements which disrespected them, and why.
     
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  8. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    I think as Anglicans we do well not to trivialise the 39 Articles. There are those who see them as historic documents with he inference that they are no longer relevant. That displays a poor understanding of both the Articles and a poor understanding of the importance of history.

    The Articles in reality are more liberating than they are constrictive. Some of the Articles are of greater weight that other.
    • Articles 1-8 should be understood and embraced by all of us, without let or hindrance.
    • Articles 9-7 reflect the reformed theologians approach to faith, sin, forgiveness and salvation. We should have little trouble with this.
    • Articles 18-26 reflect views of Church and sacraments in keeping with what we believe.
    • Articles 27-34 discuss sacraments and traditions.
    • Article 35, the 2nd book of Homilies, which are largely no longer read, and perhaps should be re-visited.
    • Article 36, has to do with the validity of Anglican Bishops, as fundamental to the character of the Church
    • Article 37, has to do with civil magistrates (perhaps a little erastian)
    • Article 38, affirms private ownership of property
    • Article 39, about the swearing of particular oaths. (also perhaps a little erastian)
     
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  9. mediaque

    mediaque Member

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    I'm Anglo Catholic .... and by no means do we disregard the 39 articles in our Parish. YMMV.
     
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  10. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    This is all very interesting. Could you perhaps outline a few of the heresies in the Westminster? I'm curious about that.
     
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  11. bwallac2335

    bwallac2335 Active Member

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    Is this an orthodox and good reading of Article 18 on Predestination? God's grace goes before us and is always present. It is given to everyone. Once we accept his grace and forgiveness through Jesus we are now part of the predestined as long we persevere in the faith.
     
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  12. Jeffg

    Jeffg Active Member

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    However, absence of the Articles doesn't necessary lead to heterodoxy in every case, and the Anglo-Catholics have (effectively) abandoned the Articles but clearly have not fallen into rejecting the Gospel. That being said, the Anglo-Catholics are becoming less and less Anglican, so by that standard the Articles are essential for keeping an Anglican identity. We see this A-C slide by looking at their present state today, as compared to the original signers of the Affirmation of St. Louis. The Anglo-Catholic world is slowly shedding its Anglican identity and morphing into a kind of Old Catholic thing; there are talks that they will go into open communion with the National Polish Catholic Church, etc. If you want to research what the Old Catholic "thing" is, it's basically the Roman Catholic worldview of the 19th century prior to the final proclamation of Papal Supremacy and Infallibility. The classical exponents of these views within our context are Newman, Allen, and the Ritualist Movement. Some of those who were still Article-subscribing Anglicans like Pusey, and Keble, are also sometimes corralled in here. It is basically a 19th century phenomenon, appropriated today by people who believe that that was the ideal capsule of what ideal Christianity looks like.






    One question then is "Why don't the Anglo Catholics just join the Union of Scranton ?"
     
  13. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Not to take us off track, I will list some of what I think are the bigger ones, just to answer your question:
    -regulative principle of worship
    -this phrase: "This certainty is not a bare conjectural and probable persuasion grounded upon a fallible hope; but an infallible assurance of faith founded upon the divine truth of the promises of salvation, the inward evidence of those graces unto which these promises are made"
    -the doctrine of Reprobation
    -the Catechisms teaching that the state has the power to coerce men in matters of religion
    -the rejection of episcopacy
    -its problems on the sacraments
    -and others, like its stance on the Apocrypha, which although not strictly heretical is still highly problematic and innovative (innovation, for Christians, being a grave sin)
     
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  14. Will_

    Will_ Member

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    That is what I would call an "Arminian" position as contrasted with a "Reformed" position. You will certainly find orthodox Anglicans who agree with your formulation, and you will find orthodox Anglicans who don't agree.

    If you are interested, T. P. Boultbee discussed this in his chapter on Article 17, particularly starting on page 143:

    https://books.google.com/books/abou...AAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=kp_read_button

    Will
     
  15. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    The impact of those foreign theologies has been far smaller in Anglicanism than modern interpreters claim. What @bwallac2335 describes, otherwise known as “prevenient grace”, is literally the teaching of the Articles:

    Article X, Of Free Will
    “...we have no Power to do Good Works pleasant and acceptable to God, without the Grace of God by Christ preventing us, that we may have a good Will, and working with us when we have that good Will.”
     
  16. Will_

    Will_ Member

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    I certainly don't disagree with that, particularly when it is understood that the word "preventing" has a different meaning in our day. At the time of the writing of the Articles, that term was used in this context to mean "guiding and encouraging". Hence, we have the Grace of God by Christ guiding and encouraging us! Thanks be to God.
     
  17. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    It meant a bit more than that. Here was the full gamut of its meanings in the sixteenth century. From: https://www.shakespeareswords.com/Public/Glossary.aspx

    Screen Shot 2020-01-10 at 11.29.58 AM.png

    In short, it meant, "to come before", which makes sense from the word itself (before its modern connotation): pre- ventio, which is exactly derived from the latin words pre- and venire, "to come before", which is exactly what the word prevenient means. You can find any number of instances of the word "preventing" in the 16th century and in each case they add up to some version of "coming before". In the Article, where you see preventing, you can interpolate, prevenient.
     
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2020
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  18. bwallac2335

    bwallac2335 Active Member

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    So what I wrote would be an orthodox reading of the article?
     
  19. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Yes. It just shouldn't be interpreted in light of these later new-kid-on-the-block theological systems, like Arminianism or Calvinism. Arminianism for instance took some good traditional concepts like prevenient grace, and added some Pelagian baggage on top. Calvinists saw the pelagianism of Arminians, and just rejected prevenient grace altogether. Seeing it be clearly taught in the Articles, they just abandoned the Articles altogether (tying into that Evangelical discomfort with them).

    The recent few centuries of Christianity have been a complete mess, which is why it's such a relief to find a short and simple framework of theology where there is no trace of all these new, johnny-come-lately issues and confusions.
     
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  20. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    You make an interesting point. You've already pointed out an objection to Arminianism. An objection to Calvinism would be their belief that God makes saving grace (and, therefore, faith) available only to a certain few but not to others; but, as bwallac2335 said, "God's grace... is given to everyone." Grace being a favor bestowed without merit, we can see from scripture that God gives to all men a certain minimal measure of faith, or capability of believing, by which the individual could (in free will) accept or reject the Gospel.

    But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. (Ephesians 4:7)
    The Lord is...not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)
    ...he [Christ] died for all... (2 Corinthians 5:15)
    ...God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. (Romans 12:3)

    So Articles X and XVII are neither Calvinist nor Arminian, which is something I hadn't really thought about (as such) until today.
     
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