Monday, February 11, 2008

"The church, its Lord and his word"

A fine article by The Rev. Dr. Mark Thompson of Moore Theological College, Sydney, Australia is here. A quote:

"Some contemporary methods of reading the Scriptures fail at precisely this point: they treat them as imaginative literature without paying due attention to the way they testify to Christ. In contrast the Bible itself constantly points beyond itself to the reality of the risen Christ. No church is taking Scripture seriously if it fails to acknowledge unreservedly his unique lordship. Again, neither Christ himself nor the word God has given us which speaks of him can be separated from the Spirit of God. The Spirit of God is indeed the Spirit of Christ (Rom. 8). It is the Spirit who breaks through the stubbornness of our personal rebellion to bring to bear the gift of faith. And this same Spirit is the one who superintended the production of the Scriptures so that what we have before us is in fact what was breathed out by God (2 Tim. 3:16)."

Compare this to the slippery word tricks at The Episcopal Church's official site:

"The Scriptures emerged from the experience of a community who believed that God had been and was mysteriously, but clearly, present and active in their midst. Beginning as an oral tradition, the Hebrew people and the Church gradually gathered and developed its sacred texts and established a final, unchanging canon to be a measuring rod or standard for the Christian life of faith. These Scriptures, however, were intended to be interpreted and reinterpreted over and over again in the light of contemporary knowledge and experience within a believing and worshiping community open to the leading of God's Spirit into new truth."

These two quotes summarize the current disintegration of the Anglican Communion and The Episcopal Church. One view places the church under the authority of the Bible (the traditional view, expressed by Prof. Thompson); the other view buries the Bible's clear teaching under a pile of other "authorities" (as in the Episcopal Church site quote).

Prof. Thompson shows that the Bible is inspired by God, points always to Jesus, and provides language by which the Holy Spirit transforms our lives.

But before we can do what the Prayer Book asks, and "read, mark, learn and inwardly digest" the Holy Bible, the Episcopal Church orders us to:
  • Accept that the Bible was invented through historical accidents and questionable human opinions ("a community who believed...that God had been present");
  • Accept that any values ("measuring rod") in the Bible must be "interpreted and reinterpreted." Wish I could do that at the gas station. If I could "interpret and reinterpret" liquid measure, I could save a bunch of money by arriving at a new interpretation of "gallon."
  • Submit the Bible to "contemporary knowledge." Anybody who has spent 5 minutes at any Episcopal Church function knows that this means pop-psychobabble, junk science and politically correct platitudes. In many Episcopal Church functions, facts are suppressed and events are managed to get a desired outcome. It is not true inquiry.
  • Submit the Bible to the "experience" of the "community." That is, whatever the church bureaucracy and activist factions repeat over and over with enough volume trumps the clear language in the Bible.
  • Assume that the Holy Spirit is a "free agent" who will show us something "new", working apart from, rather than in perfect relationship with, the Father and the Son as the Holy Trinity.

The Anglican choice is between Christ, revealed to us and renewing us through the word of God in the Bible, and "churchianity" that makes the Bible into a meaningless relic - the position of those who "hold a form of godliness but deny its power" (II Timothy 3:1-5).


Dave said...

thanks for posting this interesting article

Alice C. Linsley said...

This is what happens when the interpretation of the Bible is separated from the teachings of the Church Fathers. When we read the Bible we should also read what the earliest interpreters of the Bible have written, because they were students of the Holy Apostles, the Holy Confessors and the Holy Martyrs.

Anonymous said...


Like a good teacher, you drive home your point by an apt comparison. I think it was a very illuminating move to place the marvelously clear and emphatic defense of the full, unique, and unrivalled authority of Holy Scripture as God's Word in Prof. Thompson's helpful article in stark contrast to the highly ambiguous and "splippery word tricks" used by TEC to disguise their utter disregard for the Bible. I love how in the process you unmask the thinly veiled unbelief in the TEC version by your incisive (and telling) comments.

But as one who bothered to read the whole article by the Australian professor, let me also offer one little yellow flag of caution. Dr. Thompson represents the famous (or infamous) Sydney approach to Anglicanism that is ultra-Protestant in a very one-sided way. In particular, the seminary prof "down under" (where they are enjoying summer right now) upholds the typically Reformed stress on the CLARITY of the Bible along with its authority. Alas, of course, the history of Protestantism reveals all too plainly that while the Scriptures may be abundantly clear on what matters most (e.g., the character of God, and the promise and basis of salvation through faith in Christ), this doesn't diminish the historical fact that the Bible is very unclear about a whole lot of (lesser) things that good, faithful Christians have disagreed about for the last 500 years.

That's why I would also heartily endorse Alice's comment above about the need to read the Bible ALONG WITH THE EARLY CHURCH and to be guided by the great early Fathers and marturs (along with the Reformers).

Anonymous said...

...and nobody said it was going to be easy to stand up for this. People need to seriously think about what gifts they have to give to keep the truth alive, without overdoing and burning themselves out. They need to think about what role that they are able to play for our Anglican church. It can be done, even if it requires some sacrifice (and some ducking from rotten tomatoes!).

TLF+ said...

Fr. Handy: and won't those competing ways of understanding Scripture be on display this Sunday, when we are called to preach on "You must be born again/born from above" and "unless one is born of water and the Spirit" !!!

Anonymous said...

Father Tim,

Yes, you're right, of course. And not just this Sunday either. Year A in the three-year cycle is especially geared to preparing new converts for baptism at Easter, and for preparing the Christian community to better appreciate the unfathomable depths of the riches of what it means to be baptized into union with Chirst and thus SHARE in the Master's savific passing over from death to life on our behalf.

I admire ++Peter Jensen as a staunch defender of the true faith and a fine, faithful pastor. I'm personally glad that there are still people totally proud to call themselves Protestant and Reformed (theologically) in the AC. But as I think you know, I'm not one of them. I'm a "3-D" guy myself, with a strong catholic side that people in Sydney are allergic to in general. Needless to say, I am strongly opposed to the controversial notion of "lay presidency" at the eucharist that is often associated with the archdiocese of Sydney.

But all that pales in comparison with the fact that Sydney is a strong bastion of orthodoxy in the AC when heresy is epidemic. I welcome them as allies, especially when they are positively predisposed to the whole idea of the necessity for Reformations!

TLF+ said...

By the way, I encourage folks to visit the Diocese of Sydney site, which David lists in the very first post.

Exciting to see what a contemporary, world-engaging church can look like.

No parish, diocese, person or whatever is perfect, but I think that you will be inspired by what you find at the Sydney Anglicans site.

Thanks, David, for commenting and every blessing to you. If you didn't see it on your visit here to NPA, I have a "Useful Link" to Sydney down the left side of this site.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Father Tim, I just read your comment at Drell's Descants and couldn't help but wonder how the "Poo-Bahs" will handle the born again text. :)