Thursday, September 1, 2022

“For the avoiding of controversies"

D.J. Marotta, an Anglican priest, writes at TGC about "Elegant Orthodoxy: The Thirty-nine Articles of Religion." He writes "Confessions like the Thirty-nine Articles are to be neither dismissed nor deified. We shouldn’t view our own doctrinal confessions as infallible.... They’ve stood the test of time, and we shouldn’t arrogantly think of ourselves as wiser than our forebears."

I first read the Thirty-nine articles in my late teens. The first and second sections should be found generally agreeable by any orthodox Christian. The third section is more particularly for Anglicans but also worth attention. Marotta:
The Anglican Church’s Thirty-nine Articles of Religion aren’t comprehensive. They don’t answer every theological or ecclesiastical question a follower of Jesus might have. But there’s an elegance in the Articles’ brevity and simplicity that both roots us in the historic church and is timely today.

The Thirty-nine Articles were originally composed as 42 articles by the English reformer Thomas Cranmer in 1553 to unify the Church of England doctrinally. In Cranmer’s own words, the Articles were composed “for the avoiding of controversies in opinions.” After multiple revisions, they reached their final form in 1571....

The first eight articles are the Catholic Articles. They generally represent what most Christians have believed throughout church history. These articles speak to Trinitarian theology, Christology, the holy Scriptures, and the historic creeds. The Reformed Articles (9–33) form the largest section. They reflect the great theological controversies of the 16th century, covering soteriology (9–18), ecclesiology (19–22), missiology (23–24), and sacramentology (25–33). The remaining Local Articles (34–39) deal with local traditions and provisions of the Church of England and how Christians should relate to their local neighbors and governments. ....

Each of the articles bears within itself timeless truth for following Christ, but I want to highlight two ways in which the historic doctrines found here are particularly timely today.

First, the Articles of Religion provide an essential anchor for the church by embodying what Lesslie Newbigin described as “the scandal of particularity.” Modern people are often outraged at the idea that Jesus is not one of many paths to God but is the singular, exclusive way of salvation. We live and minister in a therapeutic age that not only rejects the singular claim of sola fide, solus Christus but also rejects the need for any kind of salvation at all. But articles 6 (“Of the Sufficiency of the Holy Scripture for Salvation”) and 18 (“Of Obtaining Eternal Salvation Only by the Name of Jesus”) affirm this scandalous doctrine clearly. At first blush, this may seem awkwardly out of touch with our cultural moment, but the truth of Christ’s exclusivity is what roots the church and allows our ministry to go deeper than felt needs.

Second, the Articles of Religion provide comfort for those who have been hurt by the church. Article 26 is titled “Of the Unworthiness of the Ministers, Which Hinders Not the Effect of the Sacraments.” It’s worth reading in its entirety:
Although in the visible Church the evil be ever mingled with the good, and sometimes the evil have chief authority in the Ministration of the Word and Sacraments, yet forasmuch as they do not the same in their own name, but in Christ’s, and do minister by his commission and authority, we may use their Ministry, both in hearing the Word of God, and in receiving the Sacraments. Neither is the effect of Christ’s ordinance taken away by their wickedness, nor the grace of God’s gifts diminished from such as by faith, and rightly, do receive the Sacraments ministered unto them; which be effectual, because of Christ’s institution and promise, although they be ministered by evil men. Nevertheless, it appertaineth to the discipline of the Church, that inquiry be made of evil Ministers, and that they be accused by those that have knowledge of their offenses; and finally, being found guilty, by just judgment be deposed.
.... In these ways, the Thirty-nine Articles don’t only provide us with a historically rooted, elegant orthodoxy. They also preach to us—sinful pastors and priests as well as their parishioners—the beautifully good news of the gospel. (more)
D.J. Marotta, "Elegant Orthodoxy: The Thirty-nine Articles of Religion," TGC, August 31, 2022.

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