Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Monday, December 4th, 2017

Author:

Jules Gomes

Two men go to the temple to pray, one the Archbishop of Canterbury and the other a Trump-voting American fundamentalist. Archbishop Justin, standing before ITV’s Robert Peston, prays: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, Tories, pro-lifers, patriots, climate change deniers, wealth creators, welfare state haters, women’s ordination objectors, Islamophobes, homophobes, transphobes, Jacob Rees-Mogg or even like this fundamentalist Christian Trump-voter. I support Fair Trade and food banks. I challenge Wonga and high street banks.I pray for the UN climate summit in Paris. I issue press releases on child refugees and terrorist attacks. I denounce Brexiteers and praise Remainers.’

The Trump-voter, standing far off, will not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beats his breast, saying: ‘I am a garbage collector from America’s Rust Belt struggling to raise a family. I voted for Trump. God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’

Jesus’s much-loved parable of the Pharisee and the Publican is a classic text on the dynamics of virtue signalling. The Pharisee, like the Archbishop, is seeking moral approbation. On ITV, Welby said he ‘really genuinely’ does not comprehend why fundamentalist churchgoers voted for Trump. There are a number of features to this liturgy of sanctimonious virtue signalling.

First, it is public, performed in the Temple or on TV. Second, it is effortless. It involves no risk. Third, it is elitist. The Pharisee is not like the Publican. The Archbishop is not like the American. Fourth, it is exclusive. The Pharisee and the Archbishop exclude sinful publicans, Republicans, and creepy fundamentalists crawling out of Clinton’s ‘basket of deplorables.’ Fifth, it is self-centred. The camera must focus on I, me and myself – a trait Martin Luther termed homo incurvatus in se: man curved in on himself.

James Bartholomew, author of The Welfare of Nations, coined the term ‘virtue signalling’ in 2015. ‘One of the crucial aspects of virtue signalling is that it does not require actually doing anything virtuous,’ he notes. ‘It takes no effort or sacrifice at all.’ While researching his previous book, The Welfare State We’re In, Bartholomew realised that the Victorians and Edwardians gave more to charity than today’s citizens. Even the working classes gave around 10 per cent of their income, compared with less than 1 per cent for today’s overall population. Today, people think they are virtuous because they vote Labour and express hatred of Right-wingers. ‘That is not virtue.’ writes Bartholomew. ‘That is lazy, self-righteous and silly.’

John Sentamu, Archbishop of York, proved Bartholomew’s point last week, when he returned to the safe spaces of the BBC studios to be interviewed by Andrew Marr, and donned his dog collar after the fall of Robert Mugabe. Sentamu cut up his collar on the Andrew Marr Show in 2007 in protest against Mugabe.

Sentamu did not visit Zimbabwe and demonstrate outside Mugabe’s palace. He would have been thrown into prison. That would have been a virtuous act of protest requiring real courage. Your publicity stunt really had Mugabe quaking in his boots, did it not, Archbishop? You could have made a Mugabe voodoo doll and stuck pins into it! Sentamu’s act was a feel-good virtue-signalling feat. He felt good and enjoyed the publicity. Andrew Marr felt good because the BBC had done its bit to virtue signal its opposition to Mugabe. We all felt good because we had vicariously demonstrated our hatred for Mugabe.

Jesus warns against virtue signalling when he asks his disciples to ‘beware of practising your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them’. He ridicules religious leaders who make ‘their phylacteries broad and their fringes long’ (and slice their dog collars in television studios).

Social psychologists Justin Tosi and Brandon Warmke prefer to categorise such behaviour as ‘moral grandstanding’ – public moral discourse aiming to convince others that you are ‘morally respectable’. Others must judge you as ‘worthy of respect or admiration’ because of ‘some particular moral quality – for example, an impressive commitment to justice, a highly tuned moral sensibility, or unparalleled powers of empathy. To grandstand is to turn one’s contribution to public discourse into a vanity project,’ they argue. Sentamu’s vanity project lasted ten years and was made visible by the empty space around his neck.

There are life and death issues in the North of England over which Sentamu presides. Clergy survivors of sexual abuse have been pleading with him for justice. Fr Matthew Ineson, one of the victims, tweeted this a couple of days ago: ‘Today is the 98th day since risk assessment request on Bishops Sentamu, Croft, Snow & Burrows (for failure to act on disclosures of child abuse & leave a priest child sex abuser 5 years to potentially abuse again) sent to @JustinWelby STILL no reply. Why? Child abuse unimportant?’ Teenage white underclass girls in northern towns have been raped by mostly Pakistani Muslim men on an industrial scale. The C of E is haemorrhaging members over the failure of its hierarchy to uphold orthodox teaching in the face of a militant sexually permissive zeitgeist.

Welby or Sentamu haven’t let out the tiniest squeak of protest or opposition.

Ironically, the rise of virtue signalling parallels a growing interest in Aristotelian virtue ethics. Philosophers such as Alasdair MacIntyre in his book After Virtue and Bishop N T Wright in his book Virtue Reborn have both stressed the importance of virtue as building character.

But virtue signalling is the opposite of virtue. Real virtue is done without drawing attention, is in harmony with reason and natural law, and is directed toward helping others or toward God. Virtue signalling turns virtue ethics on its head because it must be readily visible, it is silly and unreasonable and it does not help anybody, says Kevin Clark.

The most devastating consequence of virtue signalling is that it becomes a substitute for character building and replaces Aristotle’s four principal virtues of courage, justice, prudence and temperance with publicity stunts, sound bites, Facebook ‘likes’ and Twitter shares.

Oh, by the way, Paul Bayes, Bishop of Liverpool, took a virtue-signalling HIV testlast week. ‘It’s just a pinprick. A simple, pain-free test. And the staff I dealt with were lovely, putting me completely at ease,’ Bayes said. Poor Jesus, I thought! He had to endure a crown of thorns on his head, nails through his hands, and a spear thrust into his side.

First printed in The Conservative Woman

Australia, Oh Australia!

Saturday, November 18th, 2017

yes austalia

By Rollin Grams November 15, 2017

In one of C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, ‘The Silver Chair,’ the emerald witch of the underworld advocates an anti-natural lie.  She claims that there is no real world above the ‘Underland’ that she has created. She throws a magical potent onto the fire that causes the children who had tumbled into her realm to come under her spell. She launches into ‘shared dialogue’ with them to convince them of their erroneous belief in a real world above ground. No doubt, because she was managing to break down their resistance to her ‘revisionist teaching’, she would have considered this ‘good conversation’.  (The awkward phrases in quotes are typical in the Church of England for the liberal agenda to persuade the Church to abandon its historic faith for Western culture’s anti-natural thinking about sex and marriage.)

The children’s companion, Puddleglum, is a voice of reason in the story and is less susceptible to false arguments than the children.  He stomps bare-footed onto the magical fire to put it out. The children emerge from the witch’s spell and come to their senses. Smarting from his burns, Puddleglum says to the witch, ‘Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one.’  He and the children then get on with their mission.

As expected, yesterday’s referendum in Australia led to an affirmation of same-sex ‘marriage’.  This step on the road to an ultimate denial of biological, binary genders is becoming definitive for Western nations.  The illogic of the view follows that of the emerald witch.  That some 61% of the voters fell for this lie for around 3% of the population who identify as homosexual is an indication that the culture is failing in many more ways than just this issue.  It has lost the basis from which to present moral arguments of any sort because it has rejected God’s created world.  Like Eve and Adam, it has bitten into the fruit that will allow them to determine good and bad for themselves, to play God.

The saddest part of the story, however, is that the mainline churches have, by and large, failed Australia’s children.  They have ceased to speak rational sense and, instead, fallen under the magical spell of this ‘Underworld’ that denies created realities.  True, the Sydney Diocese of the Anglican Church remains faithful to God’s revealed truths in creation and Scripture.  However, in Australia’s version of the story, Puddleglum falls under the spell of the anti-naturalism of culture, which also aborts its children by the millions under the imaginary notion that the vulnerable are less than human.

The only question that remains is, ‘How long will it take for this culture to decide that realists are dangerous, unfit to parent, unworthy to teach children, a troubling presence in the workplace, and need to be removed?’  Anti-naturalism will prove to be the totalitarianism of the 21st century.

THE COMPROMISING CHURCH (Part 4)

Wednesday, November 8th, 2017

Sola Gratia

By Roger Salter
Special to VIRTUEONLINE
www.virtueonline.org
It could be said that we live in the age of “cheap grace”. But in fact that is too high a compliment to pay to the prevailing attitude of our time (“attitude” is a substitute for the noun “theology”, for that noble science, in any Biblical sense, scarcely exists anymore in all the breadth of that amorphous religious entity known as “Anglicanism”). Grace hardly matters as a concept or a divine influence when sin, its consciousness and sense of conviction, is annihilated by the universal assumption of Universalism – the notion that divine acceptance embraces all without condition or exception. “Anything goes” is the the watchword of our benighted Communion.

A Reformation can only occur against the backdrop of accountability to God and the offenses committed against Him. A Reformation such as Martin Luther’s was fueled by the environment of Roman Catholicism with its residual elements of Christian tradition. In our era what is necessitated is a revolutionary reversal of practically all that constitutes human self-understanding and perception of reality. Our race is about as far gone from God as is possible prior to the event of the denouement of history. At the end of the 20th century Evangelical notables such as Martyn Lloyd Jones and Alec Motyer were remarking that societal decadence was almost at an absolute nadir. Decades later our culture and mainline churches have descended to even greater depths of moral turpitude and departure from true Christian faith. Only an acute awareness of sin can arouse consciences to cry for divine mercy.

Our plight is beyond the wit or action of man to resolve, and only divine power and wisdom can extract us from the morass of grave wickedness in which our generation now lies. No situation is beyond the redemptive power of God but it is subject to the determination of his sovereign will and his inviolable prerogative to exercise compassion or wrath: “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever” (Genesis 6:3). Mercy is never an entitlement. It issues from a free decision. “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy” (Romans 9:15). If salvation is in any way to be in prospect for sinners it must spring from divine initiative, not simply as a proposition, but at the very inception of its performance. God must begin, carry out, and complete the mission of human rescue. The first move is strictly monergistic, then follows assent, and then continuing compliance with the will of God. Grace is decisive at every point of the process of redemption. The sinner is first embraced by the Lord’s unmotivated grip. He then closes with God under the influence of the divine call and love. He is enabled to continue in attachment to God by the unbreakable bond of divine reliability in sustaining permanent divine commitment toward a specially chosen and unstable companion – namely the elect individual. Salvation is all of grace operative through different modes – election, enticement (effectual call), and everlasting care.

The believer’s thorough reflection on Scripture and experience brings him or her to the Pauline conclusion”: “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to become conformed to the image of his Son, so that he would be the firstborn among many brethren; and those whom he predestined, he also called; and those whom he called, he also justified; and those whom he justified, he also glorified.”

There is no break or failure in the sequence of saving events. The order of salvation is preserved intact. Christ the Son is chosen as Redeemer and the Lord looks favorably upon a vast and gathered cluster of lost individuals whom he will personally associate forever as “brethren” with his Servant, and their Saviour, in the assignment of recovery from sin and restoration to his intimacy. Those sovereignly considered and named ones (their undeserving identity fully known and foreknown), are predestined to mercy and the gift of eternal and holy life. Salvation is in and through Christ – not because recipients somehow, in time, enter into connection with Christ by some human means, but because Father, Son, and Holy Spirit nominate them to inclusion within the People of God and collaborate in bringing them “home”.

The elect ones are attracted to Christ. They are accepted through him. And so perfect is their protection and preservation through this life of weakness and temptation that their attainment of Christ’s glorious presence in heaven is absolutely guaranteed. Predestination is important because it upholds the effectualness, completeness, and ultimate success of Christ’s saving venture. It renders to him due glory for the fulfillment of his purpose. Nothing human can cause him to fail. It is unthinkable to diminish or mar the perfection of his saving work.

All facets of the divine purpose are beautifully and pastorally spelt out in the seventeenth Article of our Reformed Confession.

Article 17. Of Predestination and Election.

Predestination to Life is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby (before the foundations of the world were laid) he hath constantly decreed by his counsel secret to us, to deliver from from curse and damnation those whom he hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation, as vessels made to honour. Wherefore, they which be endued with so excellent a benefit of God be called according to God’s purpose by his Spirit working in due season: they through Grace obey the calling: they be justified freely: they be made sons of God by adoption: they be made like the image of his only begotten Son Jesus Christ: they walk religiously in good works, and at length, by God’s mercy, they attain to everlasting felicity.

Intellectual and moral integrity require that the Article be read and interpreted in the historical and grammatical sense apparent in the known views of the Reformers themselves. Their doctrine is not malleable to the influence of private opinion or subject to the imposition of subsequent attempts at revisionism. Cranmer, whose theology “was structured by predestination” (Diamaid MacCulloch), built that same structure into Anglicanism as the principal author of our Confession of Faith. Every phrase of the Article can be seen to match the language employed by Jean Calvin at various points throughout his writings, which is not to allege that the French Reformer was directly copied by Cranmer. The views of the two men coincided because they had Sacred Scripture as their common source.

Fore-ordination to salvation is the evident meaning of the opening statement of the article i.e “everlasting purpose”, “constantly decreed”, “those whom he hath chosen in Christ”. The decree brings men to Christ, that is to knowledge of and faith in Christ. They are not selected on the basis of faith already existent in Christ but they are marked out for the gift of faith which shall be exercised toward Christ. “In Christ” signifies the consideration of the elect as being under Christ, whom the Father has elected as head of all redeemed ones. Augustinian predestinationism is absolutely asserted in the vocabulary before us. It is people who are chosen out of a wretched state that are selected by the Lord and not those who somehow find themselves in a favorable state through their effort or inclination. Grace is distinguishing: “And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48).

The word “decree” is deemed by many to have a hard edge to it. Decretal theology, it is claimed, is often presented in a harsh tone as if divine decisions were purely mental conceptions disconnected from living, feeling, souls. Such is not the case. Election emerges from warm affection – “electing love”. Condemnation is in consideration of unforsaken evil which is rightly hated by a holy God. Those “passed by” dare to be living souls harboring hatred for God and determined to continue in defiance of their Maker and Governor. God possesses the prerogative to show mercy or administer judgment. Salvation is entirely free. Punishment is entirely deserved. “It is of grace that any are saved; and in the distribution of that grace he does what he will with his own – a right which most are ready enough to claim in their own concerns, though they are so unwilling to allow it to the Lord of all” (John Newton).

God is at liberty to issue his just decrees, publish his determinations, express his commands, and declare his demands. They are all righteous and wise, and where they are prescriptive they are supremely beneficial. Where his ways are beyond human understanding we yield to Nebuchadnezzars’s discovery: “But he does according to his will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth: and no one can ward off his hand or say to him, What have you done? We can only accede to Paul’s advice to be humble, “Who are you, O man, who answers back to God” (Romans 9:20). God does not require our permission and he is entitled to our acquiescence. The sovereignty of God warrants glad submissiveness in man.

[It may be possible and useful to comment briefly at this point on the matter of supra vs infralapsarianism, as to whether any sovereign differentiation between persons is to be considered prior to or following the fall of man. Our minds ought to be reverently reserved on this speculative matter which has no material affect on the ministry of the gospel (although supra may have a tendency to blunt Christian compassion). Supra is not necessarily more logical (see Warfield, The Plan of Salvation), although that is its claim, and in preaching to lost sinners, ministers are virtually infra in their approach. It is often concluded by even scholarly biographers of John Donne that his protest against the supra position was proof that he denied the doctrine of eternal election, but there is too much evidence to the contrary. Donne was as Augustinian as the Puritans. It was in matters of worship and church polity that he differed. “God did not elect me as a helper, not create me, not redeem me, not convert me, by way of helping me; for he alone did all, and he had no use at all of me. God infuses his first grace, the first way, merely as a Giver, entirely, all himself; but his subsequent graces, as a helper; therefore, we call them Auxiliant graces.” Yet in spite of his caution as to speculation regarding the decrees, Donne the infralapasarian who could openly refer to the Book of Life as the register of the elect, could also express his belief in “the first judgment, before all times” (Reformed Anglicans ought to recognize what allies they have in Messrs Donne, Hooker, and Beveridge).

As the godly consideration of Predestination and our Election in Christ, is full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort to godly persons, and such as feel in themselves the working of the Spirit of Christ, mortifying the works of the flesh, and their earthly members, and drawing up their mind to high and heavenly things, as well because it doth greatly establish and confirm their faith of eternal Salvation to be enjoyed through Christ, as because it doth fervently kindle their love towards God:

In this portion of the Anglican treatment of predestination resides the refutation of any notion that the doctrine of election is cold, unfeeling, and remote from sensitivity, human or divine. Election arouses warm and vital human emotion, appreciation of God’s mercy, and the revelation and felt experience of divine love in the personal choice and cherishing of believers through Christ.

Only a godly consideration of predestination is the right approach to this biblical doctrine. Grammar is one matter, but tone is essential, and only the regenerate are receptive of this tone that speaks to the heart of a rebel redeemed. “Why was I made to hear his voice, and enter while there’s room; When thousands make a wretched choice, and rather starve than come. ‘Twas the same love that spread the feast, that sweetly forced me in; Else I had still refused to taste, and perish in my sin.” “Sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort” is derived from reflection on predestination. Its effect is deeply affective and emphasized by the influence and evidence of the Spirit’s presence and activity in the soul and life of the child of God. Most convincing in an astonishing way is as to how a mind once absorbed in vanity, futility, and illusory self-esteem and vacuous aspiration and desire can be so remarkably engaged in “high and heavenly things”. This development is contrary to fallen nature when the mind is enabled to soar to “heavenly places in Christ” in foretaste of celestial glory and ecstasy (Ephesians 2:6). When holiness is even faintly preferred to the desires and deeds of the flesh mercy is near and within (those who desire God have him).

So, for curious and carnal persons, lacking the Spirit of Christ, to have continually before their eyes the sentence of God’s Predestination, is a most dangerous downfall, whereby the Devil doth thrust them either into desperation, or into wretchedness of most unclean living, no less perilous than desperation. Furthermore, we must receive God’s promises in such wise, as they be generally set forth to us in holy Scripture: and, in our doings, that Will of God is to be followed, which we have expressly declared unto us in the Word of God.

The nature of the concluding pastoral precautions is firm proof of the Augustinian cast of the Article. Such warnings would be unnecessary if election were grounded in prescience or foreseen/actual faith (being potentially or already found in Christ, as it were). In fact, any other explanation, modification, version of election completely nullifies the need for recognition of the fact and its efficacy. It means nothing at all in terms of the blessings attributed to it by the Word of God. It would simply indicate mere divine acknowledgement of a human decision too frail to be fully relied upon – something amounting to auto-soterism.

To continually weigh the matter of predestination speculatively, without a godly and humble frame of mind and all the resources and perspectives of true faith in Christ, is to plunge oneself into the abyss of despair or to embark upon a course of recklessness in life. There is no light available to an attitude of dark brooding or introspective speculation concerning the nature of divine decision concerning one’s own destiny. The truth and invitation of the gospel must be our guide. These press the promises to our mind and persuade us to trust them and rest in them with a confidence that outstrips curiosity. The inducements of the gospel are offered to all and where they are sincerely embraced so they impart an infallible comfort and good hope as the continuing calling upon Christ and the cultivation of companionship with him grow through the means of grace. The reliability and faithfulness of God are proven to us as the path of obedience is carefully trod. We become accustomed to walking in the light of the Word by the grace of the Spirit. All are invited to look to the Christ of the cross and depend upon the blood of atonement. Whosoever will may come. There is no contrary prohibition revealed personally by God to any person. Election is recognized in the face of Christ that smiles welcomingly upon all comers.

Witnesses

It is not because we did believe, but so that we might believe, that he chose us. . . Man is not converted because he wills to be, but he wills to be because he is ordained to election.— Aurelius Augustine

For the term predestination does not express some compulsory necessity of the human will, but it foretells the eternal disposition, merciful and just, of a future divine operation. God . . . does not bring to perfection or deed anyone whom he has prepared beforehand in his eternal and unchangeable will. — Fulgentius of Ruspe

Nobody has been so insane as to say that merit is the cause of divine predestination as regards the act of the predestinator. . . . Thus it is impossible that the whole of the effect of predestination in general should have any cause as coming from us; because whatsoever is in man disposing him toward salvation, is all included under the effect of of predestination; even the preparation for grace — Thomas Aquinas

In the schools of the philosophers I rarely heard a word concerning grace, . . . but I continually heard that we are the masters of our own free actions. . . but afterward. . . I came to see that the grace of God far preceded all good works both in time and in nature – by grace I mean the will of God. — Thomas Bradwardine, (1200 – 1349, Archbishop of Canterbury for six months until taken by fatal illness).

The Lord Jesus knows his own. He knows them and he has chosen them from the beginning. . . how can they perish whom the Son prayed might not perish, and those whose life the Father gave up his son to death?

The Lord knows who are his. . . but he judges no others worthy of a share in so great a mystery, except those he has foreknown and foreordained as his own. For those whom he foreordained, them he also called. The merciful goodness of the Lord endures from everlasting upon them that fear him. From everlasting, because of predestination, to everlasting, because of glorification. The one process is without beginning, the other knows no ending. Indeed, those whom he predestines from everlasting, he glorifies to everlasting, with an interval, at least, in the case of adults, of calling and justification between. — Bernard of Clairvaux

All that have been, or shall be saved, have been chosen before all worlds. . . whosoever holdeth free-will, denieth wholly the predestination of God. — John Wycliffe

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28) This passage is the foundation on which rests everything that apostle says to the end of the chapter . . . He takes up here the doctrine of predestination or election. This doctrine is not so incomprehensible as many think, but is rather full of sweet comfort for the elect and all who have the Holy Spirit. . . But it is most bitter and hard for the wisdom of the flesh. . . . If there would not be this divine purpose, but our salvation would rest upon our will or work, it would be based upon chance. . . . But when the apostle says, ‘Who is he that condemneth’ ‘Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? (8:33, 34, 35), he shows that the elect are not saved by chance, but by God’s purpose and will. Indeed for this reason, God allows the elect to encounter so many evil things as are here named, namely, to point out that they are saved not by their merit, but by his election, his unchangeable and firm purpose.”
— Martin Luther

It is election which saves. . . . He who is covered by the shield of faith knows that he is elected of God by the very basis and firmness of his faith inGod . . . for those who have believed have been elected. Election, therefore, precedes faith. — Huldreich Zwingli

The kingdom of our Servitor, Jesus Christ, is an administration and procuring of the eternal salvation of the elect of God by which he . . . gathers his elect to himself. — Martin Bucer, mentor to Jean Calvin

God from eternity, predestined, or elected, freely and from his own free grace, with no respect of men’s character, the saints he would save in Christ according to that saying of the apostle: ‘God chose us in Christ himself before the foundation of the world,’ not without a medium, though not on account of any merit of ours. In Christ, and on account of Christ, God elected us, so that they that are engrafted in Christ by faith are the elect.
— Heinrich Bullinger, The Second Helvetic Confession (1564)

God chooseth us first and loveth us first, and openeth our eyes to see his exceeding abundant love to us in Christ; and then love we again, and accept his will above all things, and serve him in that office whereunto he has chosen us. — William Tyndale

As to the [eternal] election, I see there have been many who judged that this question should not even be raised. . . it is a wonder that they should think that the doctrine of predestination would subvert the good effect of preaching, especially since Paul, teacher of the Gentiles and preacher to the whole world, inculcates this doctrine in his letters, often clearly and explicitly, for instance in his letters to the Romans, the Ephesians, and Timothy. . . We cannot acknowledge the gifts of God unless we understand from what fountain they spring, and that fountain is the free purpose and mercy of God given to those whom he has elected before the foundation of the world. Those who do not see this do not see the goodness of God towards them. By this doctrine men may be brought to glory not in themselves but in the Lord. They cannot do this who ascribe to their own free will even the tiniest bit of why they are chosen by God. for they have in themselves the basis of their boasting. — Peter Martyr Vermigli (mentor to Jewel)

God hath chosen you from the beginning. His election is sure forever. The Lord knoweth who are his. You shall not be deceived with the power and subtlety of anti-christ, you shall not fall from grace, you shall not perish. This is the comfort which abideth with the faithful when they behold the fall of the wicked. . . Although all the world should be drowned with the waves of ungodliness, yet will I hold by the boat of his mercy, which shall utterly preserve me. If all the world be set on fire with the flame of wickedness, yet will I creep into the bosom of the protection of my Lord; so shall no flame hurt me. He hath loved me, he hath chosen me, he will keep me. John Jewel. (mentor to Hooker)

1. That God has predestined certain men, not all men.
2. that the cause moving him thereunto was not the foresight of any virtue in us at all.
3. That to him the number of the elect is definitely known.
4. That it cannot be but their sins must condemn them to whom the purpose of his saving mercy doth not extend.
5. That to God’s foreknown elect, the final continuance of grace is given.
6. That inward grace whereby to be saved is deservedly not given to all men.
7. That no man comes to Christ whom by the inward grace of his Spirit draws not.
8. And that it is not in every, no not in any man’s own mere ability, freedom and power to be saved, no man’s salvation being possible without grace. — Richard Hooker

Oh the excellency of the doctrine of election, and of the saints final perseverance, to those who are sealed by the Spirit of promise! I am persuaded, till a man comes to believe and feel these important truths, he cannot come out of himself; but when convinced of these, and assured of the application of them to his own heart, he then walks by faith indeed, not in himself, but in the Son of God, who died and gave himself for him . . . This is my comfort, the doctrines I have taught are the doctrines of Scripture, the doctrines of our own and of other reformed churches. — George Whitefield

i doubt not but you are often affected with a sense of distinguishing mercy. But though we know we are debtors, great debtors to the grace of God, which alone has made us to differ, we know it but imperfectly at present. — John Newton

“But some truths ought to be kept back from the people,” you will say, “lest they should make ill use thereof.” That is Popish doctrine. It was upon that very theory that the priests kept back the Bible from the people. They did not give it to them lest they should misuse it. Besides all this, remember that men do read the Scriptures and think about these doctrines and often make mistakes about them. Who then, will set them right if we who preach the Word hold our tongues about the matter? C. H. Spurgeon

Conclusion

A brief survey of the doctrine of predestination reveals that the election of grace is legitimate Catholic doctrine. The recognition of divine predestination is at the very core of the Protestant heritage. It remains for Bishop John Charles Ryle to address professing Anglicans on the matter of the Reformational sola gratia:

Some tell us that at any rate Election is not the doctrine of the Church of England. It may do very well for dissenters and Presbyterians, but not for churchmen. ‘It is a pure piece of Calvinism,’ they say, – an extravagant notion which came from Geneva, and deserves no credit among those who love the Prayer Book.” Such people would do well to look at the end of their Prayer Books, and to read the Thirty-Nine Articles. Let them turn to the 17th Article, and mark the following words (see above).

I commend this article to the special attention of all English churchmen. It is one of the sheet-anchors of sound doctrine in the present day. It never can be reconciled with baptismal regeneration! A wiser statement of the true doctrine of personal Election was never penned by the hand of uninspired man. It is thoroughly well-balanced and judiciously proportioned. In the face of such an Article it is simply ridiculous to say that the Church of England does not hold the doctrine of this paper (see Old Paths, The Banner of Truth Trust).

Two vital points should now be apparent:

It should be abundantly clear that the excellent Jean Calvin was not the inventor of the doctrine of predestination. Its author is the sweet Spirit of God who spread this truth throughout Holy Scripture and illuminated the minds of eminent saints to discern and declare the fact of electing love.

Though the doctrine of God’s everlasting love in predestination is neglected by the Anglican Communion, and the effective authority of our Articles – never formally refuted, nor officially annulled (for fear of controversy and its complications) greatly diminished – it must be seen in our time that the Reformation heritage conserved in our 16th century Confession of Faith is the only instrument, humanly speaking, and faithfully enjoined upon our clergy, is the only guarantee of our ever being a sound gospel believing, gospel preaching body within the universal Church of God. It is a matter of conscience for all ordained men to reconcile themselves to the teaching of the Articles for the sake of Confessional integrity.

The Rev. Roger Salter is an ordained Church of England minister where he had parishes in the dioceses of Bristol and Portsmouth before coming to Birmingham, Alabama to serve as Rector of St. Matthew’s Anglican Church

THE COMPROMISING CHURCH (Part 3)

Tuesday, November 7th, 2017

(Rudiments of the English Reformation)

By Roger Salter
Special to VIRTUEONLINE
www.virtueonline.org

In comparison with the Reformation as it developed in various Continental centers the Reformation in England was by no means second rate. It was a revival in true religion derived from Sacred Scripture as its source and Augustinianism as the best available commentary from human faith and piety. If the Reformers themselves, in the tone of their language, happened to be less dynamic and explicit than the Protestant giants of Europe it was not due to any lack of personal conviction, passion, or precision in theology but an overwhelmingly strong and conscious desire to be pastoral in the 16th century melting pot of diverse spirituality in the national populace. The times were tender, troubled, and dangerous. Motivational integrity was important, and to be recognized and trusted on the English scene. The national leadership was to be seen as a body of Biblically formed bishops and not mere brawlers in overheated and exaggerated controversy. It is to some extent a matter of English temperament coming into play.

Cranmer was everything a Reformer should be for his type of people – a guide well informed, reliant upon God, patient in the search for certainty, cautious in assertion until any matter could be propounded with edifying confidence. He was not rash, but responsible in a situation where human rage could quickly be ignited. His theology was strong but his spirit was meek and he wished for piety to keep pace with doctrinal perception. Every step should be measured. It is known that had he not been martyred he would have steered the Church in England to more radical change (canon law, church polity) as was seen to be necessary. Nonetheless, his heritage is invaluable and he was in harmony with Calvin, Bucer, and Martyr in matters of sin and grace – a Scriptural understanding of human salvation. “His theology was structured by predestination” (Diarmaid MacCulloch, All Things Made New, Oxford, 2016, page 276). England was most fortunate in the divine gift of the humble scholarly, prayerful man who became its first Protestant Archbishop of Canterbury.

It is Cranmer’s meekness, carefulness, and generosity of spirit that firm up confidence in his doctrinal convictions, and they were solidly Augustinian and Calvinistic in the realm of soteriology. A right perception of his liturgy and contribution to our Confessional Articles is an unsurpassable nurturing in sound Christian thought, reflection, and spiritual maturity. Other hands assisted his in the formation of the foundation of what is now Reformed Anglicanism, but it is his godly mentality and mood that broods over and permeates authentic Anglican identity and practice. It is not simply partisan, but explanatory, to declare oneself Cranmerian, for such should Anglicanism, at base, happen to be.

Anglicanism is in continuity with the Augustinian tradition, that stream of doctrine and devotion that has been the “gospel glory” of the Church’s mission from its inception in the apostolic age. Hints of sovereign grace are detectable to varying degrees in the belief and teaching of the earliest fathers but it was the sage of Hippo who brought electing love to the height of prominence that it deserves in our understanding of God’s ways and our happiness in Him. A mighty fortress is our God, from foreordination to fulfillment of our pilgrimage. “I think few doctrines more vital than that of the perseverance of the saints, for if ever one child of God did perish, or if I knew it were possible that one could, I should conclude at once that I must, and I suppose each of you would do the same. And then where is the joy and happiness of the gospel? . . . If any body could possibly convince me that final perseverance is not a truth of the Bible I should never preach again, for I feel I should have nothing worth preaching.” In these words of C.H. Spurgeon is exhibited the pastoral intent and consolation of that so-called ‘harsh system’ of Calvinism”. We are tenacious in our Augustinianism for the comfort of all of us weaklings who turn trustingly to Christ – and all are bidden to do so. Whosoever will – but all, by nature won’t. Thank God for effectual calling.

Spurgeon echoes the conviction and concern of our Reformers. The stubborn reliance of human nature on self, and accompanying refusal of God, has to be demolished by the hammer blows of God’s Word, so recalcitrant are our hearts and wills before Him (“Is not my word like a “fire?” says the Lord, “And a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?” Jeremiah 23:29). It is imperative that we should know our plight in the volitional helplessness and incapacity that pertains to us as sinners if we are to have some, even meager, measure of the great and liberal grace of God that redeems us.

Article 10: Of Free-Will. The condition of Man after the fall of Adam is such, that he cannot turn and prepare himself, by his own natural strength and good works to faith, and calling upon God : Wherefore we have no power to 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, we have that good will.

The article is considering the impotence of the fallen will in the spiritual realm and with reference to divine commands and invitations that God addresses to his human creatures. It has no bearing on speculative philosophy concerning free agency or determinism. Things above, says Luther, not things below. The Scriptures indubitably affirm our bondage to evil, Satan, and the sinful self and the cumulative proof is overwhelming, e.g. :

“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirt, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” [Fleshly factors: mind-set, spiritual death, enmity toward God, rebelliousness, inability, attraction of divine displeasure]. Romans 8:5-8. “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing” [Fleshly factors: Flesh devoid of spiritual life, flesh utterly impotent, nil value before God]. John 6:63. “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.” [Factors: Enslavement, captivity, bondage, unfreedom, the dominion of sin and the devil. “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do.” John 6:44.

The human will in all things – spiritual (above) and natural (below) – is not an independent faculty in a state of equipoise, sovereignly capable of effecting choices without the pressures of myriad influences brought to bear upon it. Reason, reliable or flawed, and disposition, virtuous or vile, play an important role in every human determination, hasty or considered. Desire, affection, emotion are decisive in formulating our preferences. The natural man, depraved in soul, and defective in every faculty the soul possesses, cannot will that which is contrary to his fallen nature. He is averse to God at the core of his being. He is dead in sin needing deliverance from his essential self. He needs interior resurrection and transformation toward which he is utterly unable to render any contribution. His raging hostility to God, largely restrained by common grace, must be tamed and taken away in the merciful, undefeatable power of God. The Lord as our Maker skillfully adjusts the tendencies of the interior man and woos us by his love and beauty. The heart is “romanced” by the Lover of our souls, and divine love changes affection, attitude and outlook (regeneration).

WITNESSES

“There is always within us a free will, but it is not always good. For it is either free from the control of righteousness when it serves sin – and then it is an evil will; or else it is free from the control of sin when it serves righteousness – and then it is a good will. But the grace of God is always good; and it is by grace that a human being comes to have a good will, though previously he had an evil one.” Aurelius Augustine (354-430)

“The beginning of salvation is conferred by God’s mercy alone. With that mercy the human will then becomes the cooperatrix. In this way the mercy of God comes before and directs the course of the human will; and the human will, being obedient, follows after that same mercy.” Fulgentius of Ruspe (468-533)

“I beg of Thee to force their wills, and dispose them to wish for that for which they do not wish; and this I ask Thee through Thy infinite mercy. Thou hast created us from nothing, now, therefore, that we are in existence, do mercy to us, and remake the vessels which Thou hast created to Thy image and likeness. Re-create them to Grace in Thy mercy and the Blood of Thy Son sweet Christ Jesus.” Catherine of Siena (1347- 1380)

“For what else does what we are saying amount to but: ‘So it depends not upon man’s will or exertion, but God’s mercy?’ He (Paul) does not say this as if it were possible for a person to will or to run in vain; what he means is that the man who wills and runs would glory not in himself, but in him from whom he received in the first place the power both to will and to run. In a word: ‘What have you that you did not receive?'” (1 Cor 4:7).

“Without grace man’s heart is incapable of thinking good thoughts, that its capacity to do so come from God.” Bernard of Clairvaux (1090- 1153)

“We do not have a right faith, however, if we do not faithfully understand, above all, whose gift it is. Faith is an element of free will, but of a will freed by grace. The will of a man held captive under sin can never be free unless he is freed by him of whom it is said; ‘If the Son shall free you, then you will be truly free.’ By himself, man is free only to sin. By this liberty all men sin; everyone sins for the delight and love for sinning.”

“If you do not choose to believe, you do not believe. Yet you believe if you choose to; but you do not choose to unless you are first helped by grace. For no one comes to the Son unless the Father draws him. How? By creating in him and inspiring in him a free will whereby he may freely choose that which he chooses; this is so that what he chooses rightly may be of his own will. By God’s inspiration we make a voluntary assent of the mind to those things which concern Him, and what we believe in our heart leads to righteousness, but what we confess by our mouths leads to salvation. And that is faith. Consequently, it has been said: If you choose, you believe; but you do not choose to [believe] unless you are drawn by the Father; and if you choose to, you choose because you are drawn by the Father.” William of St. Thierry (1085-1148)

“In a word, if we be under the god of this world, without the operation and Spirit of God, we are led captive by him at his will, as Paul saith. (2 Tim 2:26.) So that, we cannot will anything but that which he wills. For he is that ‘strong man armed,’ who so keepeth his
palace, that those whom he holds captive are kept in peace, that they may not cause any motion of feeling against him; otherwise, the kingdom of Satan, being divided against itself could not stand; whereas Christ affirms it does stand. And all this we do willingly and desiringly, according to the nature of the will: for if it were forced it would be no longer will. For compulsion is (so to speak) unwillingness. But if the ‘stronger than he’ come and overcome him, and take us as his spoils, then, through the Spirit, we are His servants and captives (which is the royal liberty) that we may desire and do, willingly, what He wills.

Thus the human will is, as it were, a beast between the two. If God sit thereon, it wills and goes where God will: as the Psalm saith, ‘I am become as it were a beast before thee, and I am continually with thee.’ (Psalm 73. 22-23.) If Satan sit thereon, it wills and goes as Satan will. Nor is it in the power of its own will to choose, to which rider it will run, nor which it will seek; but the riders themselves contend, which shall have and hold it.” Martin Luther (1483-1546)

“When the martyr John Bradford (1510-1555) was in prison early in Mary’s reign he felt moved to write to Cranmer, Ridley, and Latimer, in prison at Oxford, about the new Pelagians or free-willers: ‘The effects of salvation they so mingle and confound with the cause that if it be not seen to, more hurt will come by them than ever came by the papists – in so much that their life commendeth them to the world more than the papists . . . They utterly contemne all learning'”. The Reformation in England, Sir Maurice Powicke, Oxford paperbacks, London, 1961, page 68.

Article 11. Of the Justification of Man. We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by Faith, and not for our own works or deservings: wherefore, we are Justified by faith only is a most wholesome Doctrine, and very full of comfort, as more largely is expressed in the Homily of Justification.

The relief and joy of the gospel impacts the heart of the penitent sinner with a powerful immediacy. A glorious exchange is announced. Jesus takes our sin away and confers his righteousness upon us. This is the liberating message of the Reformation. This is our benefit derived from Luther’s struggle and Luther’s discovery of a gracious God, long sought. The message of the Spirit through Scripture is objective and clear – carved as it were in the wood of the cross and engraved on the stone that sealed the tomb. Death was rolled away with the stone. In the blood-shedding and death of Christ we are acquitted and guilt expunged. By imputation and reputation the believer is as righteous as the Lord Jesus, for we are accepted and cherished in the Beloved. Our justification is fully achieved in Christ forever without variation in our status and condition before the Almighty.

Because only Christ alone can justify us faith alone receives his virtue and vindication. The whole tenor of the gospel revealed in God’s word justifies the term “alone”. Just as the unbiblical word “Trinity” is the only way to describe and honor the nature of God, so Luther’s inspired conclusion that “faith alone” saves is grammatically and soteriologically necessary.

But it was not Luther alone who upheld the motto “faith alone”. In this choice of phraseology he was no inventor and the fuss over his verbal usage in commending the grace of God is entirely unnecessary. Hans Kung observes:

“The controversy began when in 1521 Luther translated Romans 3:28 as, “That a man be justified . . . by faith alone.” This has earned him much abuse from the Catholic side, even the reproach of falsifying Scripture.” [Professor David Starkey take note! Academics are not as infallible as they sometimes like to think, especially when they misguide the minds of millions through the media and promote unwarranted prejudice imperiling salvation – RJS]. “The formula sola fide can be taken for orthodoxy since the “alone” may be understood as a plausible way of making clear the statement in Romans 3:28. This much is certain – the “alone” in the translation is not Luther’s invention. Even before the Reformation there were already such translations. . . Nor did the Council of Trent intend to say anything against the formula in itself. . . Even more significant than the translations is the fact that the formula definitely belongs to Catholic tradition. Bellarmine (De iustificatione II, 25) realized this and cited the following for the Reformation formula: Origin, Hillary, Basil, Chrysostom, Augustine, Cyril of Alexandria, and especially Ambrosiaster and Bernard . . . ‘Sola fide’ makes good sense when it is used to express what was stressed in the foregoing chapters – that is, the total incapacity of man for any kind of self-justification. In justification the sinner can give nothing which he does not receive by God’s grace. He stands there with his hands entirely empty” (Justification, Burns and Oates, London, 1981).

Luther defends his translation: “In Romans 3, I know right well that the word solum was not in the Greek or Latin text . . . It is a fact that these four letters s-o-l-a are not there. . . At the same time . . . the sense of them is there and . . . the word belongs there if the translation is to be clear and strong. I wanted to speak German, not Latin or Greek, since I had undertaken to speak German in the translation. But it is the nature of our German language that in speaking of two things, one of which is admitted and the other denied, we use the word ‘only’ along with the word ‘not’ or ‘no’. So we say, ‘The farmer brings only grain and no money’; ‘No I have no money now, but only grain’; ‘I have only eaten and not drunk’; ‘Did you only write it, and not read it over?’ There are innumerable cases of this in daily use. . . when works are so completely cut away, the meaning of it must be that faith alone justifies, and one who would speak plainly and clearly about this cutting away of all works, must say, ‘Faith alone justifies us and not works.’ The matter itself, and not the nature of the language only, compels this translation . . . ”

WITNESSES

David means that those who are blessed are those whom God has willed to justify in his sight by faith alone; ‘Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputes not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile’ (Psalm 32 1-2). Ambrose of Milan (c339 – 397)

But a man who knows that he is justified by faith through the merits and righteousness of Christ works solely for the love of God and Christ his Son. He does not do so for any love of self-justification. The result is that the true Christian (that is, one who sees himself justified by the righteousness of Christ) does not ask himself whether good works are demanded or not. Instead he is compelled and impelled by the power of divine love. He offers himself willingly to do all the good works that are holy and Christ-like. He will never cease to do well. Don Benedetto (16th century)

“It is a faithful word and worthy of all acceptance, since, ‘When we were still sinners we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son’ (Romans 5 : 8-10). Where there is reconciliation, there is also forgiveness of sins. For if, as Scripture states (Isa 59:2), our sins separate us from God, there is no reconciliation where sin remains. Now in what is the forgiveness of sins? ‘This cup,’ he says, ‘is the new covenant in my blood, which will be poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins’ (Luke 22:20; Matt 26:28). So where there is reconciliation, there is forgiveness of sins, and what is that if not justification? So whether we talk of reconciliation, forgiveness of sins, or justification – or redemption or liberation from the chains of the devil (by whom we were kept captive at his will) – it is by the intervention of the death of the Only-Begotten that we come to be justified freely by the blood of him ‘in whom’, as he says again, ‘we have redemption through his blood and the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (Eph 1:7). Bernard of Clairvaux

“I am not the only one or the first to say that faith alone justifies. Ambrose said it before me, and Augustine, and many others; and if a man is going to read St. Paul and understand him, he will have to say the same thing and can say nothing else. Paul’s words are too strong; they endure no works, none at all; and if it is not a work, it must be faith alone. How could such a fine, improving, inoffensive doctrine, if people were taught that they might become righteous by works, beside faith? That would be as much as to say that it was not Christ death alone that takes away our sins, but that our works , too, did something toward it; and it would be a fine honoring of Christ’s death to say that our works helped it and could do that which He does, and that we were good and strong like Him. This is of the devil, who cannot leave the blood of Christ without abuse.”

As long as I recognize that I can in no way be righteous in the sight of God . . . I then begin to ask for righteousness from him. Martin Luther

Now let us see how justification is given, if it is not attributed to works. It is given freely, and depends completely on the grace of God alone. For in no way does it depend on merits. Peter Martyr Vermigli (1491- 1562)

That we say, faith only justifieth, ought to offend no man. For if this be true, that Christ only redeemed us, Christ only bore our sins, made satisfaction for them, and purchased the favour of God; then it must needs be true that the trust only in Christ’s deserving and in the promises of God the Father, made to us for Christ’s sake, doth alone quiet the conscience and certify it that the sins are forgiven. William Tyndale (c1494-1536)

This proposition, that we be justified by faith only, freely, and without works, is spoken for to take away clearly all merit of our works, as being insufficient to deserve our justification at God’s hands, and thereby most plainly to express the weakness of man and the goodness of God, the great infirmity of ourselves and the might and power of God, the imperfectness of our own works and the most abundant grace of our Saviour Christ; and thereby wholly to ascribe the merit and deserving of our justification unto Christ only and His most precious blood-shedding . . . So that our faith in Christ (as it were) saith unto us thus: It is not I that take away your sins, but it is Christ only; and to Him only I send you for that purpose, renouncing therein all your good virtues, words, thoughts, and works, and only putting your trust in Christ. Thomas Cranmer(1489-1556)

To be continued…

THE COMPROMISING CHURCH (Part 2)

Monday, November 6th, 2017

(Rudiments of the Reformation)

By Roger Salter
Special to VIRTUEONLINE
www.virtueonline.org
The Reformation was not new, but rather a resurgence, restoration, clarification and explosion of a near dormant Augustinianism that had kept the church on track through times of uncertainty and even through the descent of darkness when the faith of the gospel was in peril of extinction. The Reformers were enterprisers of a steadfast return to Sacred Scripture as the divinely given fount of Christian truth and they found common cause with the best and most Biblical statements of the church fathers and a succession of orthodox and evangelical voices that sounded the message of grace through the centuries until the 16th century revolution of Christian thought promoted by a widespread rediscovery of divine revelation. It was a colossal occurrence, a radical shift in European religion, that Providence created for the correction of long term deviation from the rudiments of God’s Word, and a launching pad for ongoing purification of the people of God in their understanding and undertakings for the rest of time.

The Church is in perpetual reforming mode complying with the will of God more completely and furthering the comprehension of his infinitely deep disclosures through creation, Christ, the inspired Canon, and the inspiring Spirit. The Reformation is a deep well from which to draw and its sources, the Sacred Word, the illumination of the Holy Spirit, and sanctified human wisdom, are our perpetual resources for familiarity with truth and faithfulness to God. We build on an immoveable foundation and raise successive storeys (levels) of sound truth and piety. The architect and activator of our ongoing development is the Lord.

The deposit of truth is located in Holy Scripture. It is there to be mined, studied, interpreted, explained, expounded, taught by humble scholarship (at all levels of ability) and proclaimed by its appointed messengers in personal meekness and supreme confidence in its ultimate Author and only efficient and interior Instructor.

The ideas and sayings of the early fathers are variously interpreted. There are many inconsistencies and some aberrations in their statements of faith. Being close to the Apostolic era, and preoccupied with many concerns, they neither had sufficient time nor leisure for thorough and comprehensive reflection and the arrival at mature conclusions on all aspects of the gospel. Bravely and with great expertise they battled for the basics of Christian faith, the construction of apologetics in defense of the faith in an alien environment, and they formulated answers in response to rival points of view from adherents to other religions, and to the skepticism of philosophical pagans. Their minds and hands were overwhelmingly too full to permit necessary precision in many areas of belief. They were compelled to guard against those who might wittingly distort or unwittingly misconstrue their teachings. “The teachings of the fathers are useful only to lead us to the Scriptures, as they were led, and then we must hold to the Scriptures alone” (Martin Luther). The fathers were not closer to the truth on the basis of chronology. Chronology is no advantage in spiritual matters (1 John 1:1-4. Through the Spirit the truth is current and close in every generation and by grace its comprehension may expand with time and perusal. Too much is made of the Patristic period and it should not be elevated above subsequent times. Antiquity is no guarantee of truth. So often the fathers are interpreted through the lens of later Catholicism rather than through a more objective appreciation of their own milieu.

Yet the Reformers studied the fathers of the first several centuries in the history of the Christian Church assiduously, understood them well, excelled in scholarship, and gained useful accord with them in establishing true catholicity as opposed to the errors of Rome accumulated over many years of false theology and practice that led to contradiction of the simple truth of the Bible. The Grace of God was trusted and advocated by the orthodox fathers but until the emergence of Pelagius on the scene its nature and dimensions were neither sufficiently grasped nor presented until Augustine rose to counter both auto-soterism (self-salvation) and synergism (human contribution to salvation). Augustine contended for monergism – the biblical assertion of salvation by grace alone. His writings resound with the clear affirmation of human impotence through enslavement to evil, the hostility of man toward God, and the omnipotence of redeeming compassion. As someone has noted, Augustine’s saturation with the theology of St. Paul validated the memorable quip, “Paul said it and Augustine read it!”.

The career and convictions of Aurelius Augustine are well-known or easily accessible to those interested. Perhaps he is the most influential of all Christian thinkers through God-given intellectual prowess, spiritual discernment, and pastoral wisdom in uniting the soul of a believer to the Spirit of God in heartfelt communion and adoration. Augustine’s attainments in commending and nurturing the knowledge of God, intelligent, affective, and authentic, are marvelously comprehensive. He is the ideal companion of all earnest seekers, sincere saints, and humble scholars. His beating heart and rhythmic breath can be felt in the lives and ministries of a succession of eminent servants of the Lord down the through the centuries, and the Liturgy, Ordinal, and Articles of the Church of England pulsate with the sweet song and sublime sentiments of the Berber’s great soul. Anglicanism is called and historically/potentially equipped to join the Augustinian chorus and sound out the grace of God to guilty and confused sinners.

Nick (N.R.) Needham in his indispensable work of compilation in The Triumph of Grace: Augustine’s Writings on Salvation (Grace Publications Trust, London, 2000*) comments, “. . . most of the great Western theologians throughout the Middle Ages were to be Augustinians in their fundamental outlook on sin and grace. I can remember the surprise and pleasure I felt when I took up the weighty tomes of Thomas Aquinas, the ultimate medieval theologian, the architect of the foul doctrine of transubstantiation, and saw the shining clarity with which Aquinas taught the doctrine of election and the absolute sovereignty of God’s grace in regeneration. Who said the Middle Ages were all dark?” (Page 23).

In spite of the correctness and cogency of Augustine’s theological position not everyone agreed with him. Pelagius remained intractable and Semi-Pelagians were only halfway with him, holding out for the human ability to make the first move in seeking salvation by calling on the Lord for donation of grace. Whichever way you look at Semi-Pelagianism it is a serious falsehood, a weighty and arrogant opinion in the sense that it suspends the success of God’s great act of redemption upon the puny will of man, or trivial in essence because it affords as little as a notional 1% contribution of man to the mighty work of God in granting in some degree or other of cheap assent. Only God can pay the price of our salvation out of his infinite riches of grace. Only divine omnipotence through gracious influence can incline the human will toward desire for God and his mercy (Ephesians 1:15-20, 2:4-10). We are not saved from anything so much as our wicked selves by the gift of a new heart through the differentiating grace of disposition. Our contribution to redemption is nil.

Nick Needham sums up the aftermath of the controversies that involved Augustine in this way: The controversy continued after Augustine died in 430 as his city of Hippo was under siege from an invading Vandal army. His disciples, notably Prosper of Aquitaine, Fulgentius of Ruspe, Avitus of Vienne, and Caesarius of Arles, defended the bondage of the will, the sovereignty of grace, predestination and perseverance of the saints against “Semi-Pelagian” criticisms. An important document known as Indiculus(‘catalogue”) appeared sometime between 435 and 442; probably edited by Prosper of Aquitaine, it summarised the Augustinian doctrine of sin and grace on the basis of papal decrees, the doctrine of the North African councils, and statements in the Church’s liturgy. The Indiculus attained a high authority in the West. Still, the controversy rumbled on in various ways, until Augustinianism triumphed at the French synod of Orange in 529. The canons of Orange were given the seal of approval by Pope Boniface II in 531. Unfortunately, the documents that enshrined the canons of Orange became lost in the mists of medieval history, and played no enduring part in shaping the Augustinian tradition until their rediscovery in the 16th century (page 23).

Augustinianism is neither novelty nor minor opinion in the history of our faith. In spite of its oversight in much popular acceptance, and its disapproval in the formal teachings of the Church of Rome (and some Protestant denominations) Augustinianism possesses de facto legitimacy as a Catholic doctrine and is essential to the phenomenon of the Reformed movement. Augustinianism is the most beneficial force in Christendom. It supplies stability and certainty in orthodoxy and it is always a source of power for much needed reform in a wayward church, renewal in an ailing church, and refreshment in a battle-worn church. Only Augustinianism is muscular enough, robust enough, to arm and equip the church against the hostility of the world and the wiles and assaults of Satan, aimed sneakily or advanced directly with enormous thrust.

In some areas of Romanism, a full-blooded Augustinianism still survives, principally, perhaps, among Thomists and Dominicans. From recollection, The Encyclopedia of Biblical Theology edited by Johannes Bauer scarcely differed from Reformed understanding in soteriological matters and cited, in its bibliography, many titles authored by strong representatives of Reformed Protestantism. FR. Reginald Garrigou- Lagrange has produced an exciting and most helpful volume (1939) entitled Predestination: The Meaning of Predestination in Scripture and the Church, Tan 1998. In writings of this stamp (see Bauer, Lagrange, and Jansenist works) it is easy to detect misunderstandings of Calvin and his colleagues in reform).

Latterly, a quartet** of amazingly interesting books examining the doctrine of predestination in the Catholic Church has come to us from the eloquent voice (or pen) of Dr. Guido Stucco. In his books we encounter an impressive catalogue of historically significant figures who championed the cause of Augustine – some mentioned above, and the list may be amplified to include Pope Gregory I, Isidore of Seville, Ratramnus, Gottschalk, Florus, Anselm, Peter Lombard, and Herveus. To these stalwarts could be added the names of Gregory of Rimini, Thomas Bradwardine, John Wycliffe, Strabo, Prudentius, and Lupus, Richard Rolle, Bernard of Clairvaux, William of Saint Thierry, Ailred of Rievaulx, Walter Hilton – all men of worth and influence in their time and in the annals of Christian thought.

By way of brief comment, Ratramnus (d. c.868) greatly influenced the English Reformation in its comprehension of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper through Cranmer’s ally Nicholas Ridley, Bishop of London. Gottschalk (805-869 – another Saxon of iron resolve and indomitable will (cf Luther), was cruelly persecuted and pilloried (excommunicated, incarcerated, and tortured) for his misconstrued teaching of “double predestination” but he never suggested the alleged notion that the non-elect were created for destruction, but were passed by for their foreseen stubbornness in sin and unbelief. Gregory of Rimini (d. 1358) was highly regarded and studied by Peter Martyr Vermigli whose role in England as Cranmer’s friend and adviser was determinative in the character of 16th century “Anglicanism”.

Peter Martyr was close in faith and friendship with the Spaniard Juan de Valdes, who, whilst remaining Catholic embraced the doctrines of grace as firmly as the Italian Reformer, and together they pastored and instructed the aristocratic evangelical group of Catholics known as the “Spirituali”, including such persons as soon-to-be, pro-reform Cardinal Gasparo Contarini, Contessa Vittoria Colonna, eventual Archbishop of Canterbury during the reign of Mary Tudor. Reginald Pole, and Michelangelo Buonarotti. It is clear and thrilling that the artistic genius (painter, sculptor, poet) became an advocate of salvation by faith in the Reformational sense (the change is evident in his later work on projects previously commenced). It is enchanting, also, to think of the warm acceptance of the gospel in this privileged and talented group but their wider influence was prevented by their remoteness from the people. Then there is the Venetian grandee and Catholic statesman/theologian Paoli Sarpi who befriended French Protestants and preferred the doctrines of Dort to those of the Council of Trent.

It is the case that Catholics who favored the doctrine of the Reformation in their heads and hearts remained in the church at the dictate of reverence for the established and ancient institution. They could not emotionally separate from the historic and familiar. The desire to cleave forbad any inclination to leave.

It is salutary to remember that the Reformers did not suddenly emerge from a vacuum. They were nurtured in various traditions comprehended within Catholicism and they retained the better influences to which they were exposed in their subsequent belief and piety. Both Luther and Calvin held St. Bernard in admiration and high esteem and referred to him confidently for his clasp upon the hand of Christ as constant companion and for his grasp of the reality of effective grace. If there is the slightest impediment in the understanding of the English leadership it is perhaps in their impression in some cases, vaguely conveyed, of the necessity of baptism to regeneration. Main attention in Sacramentology was directed toward the Lord’s Supper and a residue of Catholic thinking concerning baptism may have, unfortunately, lingered, to be retained by Anglo- Catholicism. It will be interesting to see how interwoven are the thoughts of Pre-Reformational and Reformational theologians in a proposed examination of three key Anglican Articles, namely ten, eleven, and seventeen.

To be continued…

Anglicans Pin 95 Theses-Style Complaint on LGBT Issues to Doors of Five UK Cathedrals

Sunday, November 5th, 2017

By Tyler O’Neil
https://pjmedia.com/faith
On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, anonymous evangelical Anglicans posted a 95 Theses-style complaint on the doors of five British cathedrals. The first complaints went up on the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s posting of the 95 Theses on the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church in Germany, and the documents pinned to the doors referenced Luther in calling for the Church of England to follow the Bible on LGBT issues.

“500 years ago, Martin Luther nailed 95 Theses to a church door in Germany,” one document reads. “He did it because the church had become corrupt. Today a Declaration is being fixed to a cathedral door here in England because the Established Church in our land is becoming corrupt.”

“The Church of England claims it has not changed its doctrine but its practice on the ground has already changed: clergy are adopting lifestyles which are not biblical and teaching that such lifestyles are holy in the sight of God,” the document explained. “This revisionism is causing a crisis not only in Southwark Diocese but across the whole of the Church of England.”

The document issued a very hefty charge. “When the church redefines sin and eliminates repentance, it can no longer offer the good news of eternal salvation from sin in Jesus; the church no longer remains distinctly Christian; it is no longer salt and light in the world,” the declaration read.

This document ended with a clear Reformation-style challenge. “Where leaders refuse to repent and submit themselves to the Word of God, the Lord raises up new leadership for His church and new structures: just as He did through Martin Luther 500 years ago.”

Along with this declaration, Anglicans posted the Southwark Declaration, a statement affirming traditional biblical sexuality similar to the Nashville Statement.

“We affirm the divine inspiration of the Holy Scriptures and their supreme authority in all matters of faith and conduct,” the declaration reads. “We affirm the teaching of Scripture (Genesis 2.24, Mark 10.7, Matthew 19.5), the Book of Common Prayer, and Canon B30 that marriage is the union of one man and one woman for life. We affirm it is the one God-ordained context for sexual intercourse.”

The declaration concludes by calling upon “the Bishops, Archdeacons, and the senior staff of the Diocese, alongside all clergy and licensed lay ministers, to affirm these truths, live by them, and to teach in accordance with them.”

Anonymous Anglicans posted the documents to multiple churches on different days throughout the week. Below is a list of the cathedrals where they were posted, in chronological order.
1. Southwark Cathedral.

It would only be fitting for the first posting of the Southwark Declaration to take place at Southwark Cathedral. The Southwark diocese in southern London was the site of so-called “South Bank religion,” an early liberal movement in the 1960s. An anonymous priest in that diocese told PJ Media that most evangelicals calling for reform in the Church of England point to that period as the beginning of the church’s real decline.

A group of concerned Anglicans launched the Southwark Declaration in March 2015, rebuking their bishop, the Right Reverend Christopher Chessun, for elevating openly gay and lesbian leaders to clergy positions.

Since then, the situation has arguably only gotten worse. In July of this year, two lesbian clergy members celebrated their union in Southwark Cathedral. The anonymous priest told PJ Media, “She had dinner and dancing in the nave. If that’s not a gay wedding reception in any other name, I don’t know what is.”

The Southwark Declaration went up on Tuesday, the exact 500th anniversary of Luther’s 95 Theses.

2. St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Also on Tuesday, the documents went up at St. Paul’s Cathedral, which was the tallest building in London from 1710 to 1967, and is the second-largest church building in Britain. This cathedral has hosted the funerals of Lord Nelson the Duke of Wellington, Sir Winston Churchill, and Margaret Thatcher. It is a symbol of British identity.

St. Paul’s Cathedral has an LGBTQ ministry called “Integrity.” In 2012, the new Dean of St. Paul’s, Rev. Dr. David Ison, said the Church of England should embrace gay marriage.

“We need to take seriously people’s desire for partnership and make sure that the virtues that you see in married relationships are available to people who are gay,” Ison declared. “You can regard two Christian gay people as wanting to have the virtues of Christian marriage.” He also insisted that gay couples should be allowed to adopt children.

3. Hereford Cathedral.

On Wednesday, an Anglican priest posted the declaration on the door of Hereford Cathedral. Last month, the Bishop of Hereford, the Right Reverend Richard Frith, supported a motion to “commend an Order of Prayer and dedication after the registration of a civil partnership or a same sex marriage.”

Frith claimed that local clergy were inundated with requests for such services. The local synod passed the measure, 41 votes for, 18 against.

“It’s about exploring — what are the acceptable limits, how far can we go?” Frith asked. “Some people would want to go the whole hog and say we should have same-sex marriages in church.” He presented his measure as a compromise — having a blessing, but allowing churches to opt out and not pushing the entire wedding service.

The Anglican priest who affixed the documents to the cathedral’s door gave a statement to PJ Media. “This notice, firstly, is a call to repentance, to turn back to The Lordship of Christ,” he wrote.

“On the anniversary of the Reformation, this notice recognizes the urgency of the current situation, where that Lordship is being rapidly sacrificed and given over to ‘revisionism,’ and the contemporary idols and demands of our secular culture,” the priest added.

He concluded, “This notice serves, secondly, to act as a final plea to our Bishops and leaders to act decisively, now, to save and protect the teachings and traditions of the Church, that go all the way back to the first apostles and indeed Jesus Himself.”

4. Rochester Cathedral.

Rochester Cathedral hosted an “LGBTI+ friendly Eucharist” on October 18, and it even included a rainbow flag on the altar. The eucharist took place in a side chapel, the event did not drape the LGBT flag over the main altar, but the fact that a Church of England cathedral celebrated the Lord’s Supper on an altar with an LGBT flag speaks volumes.

The Southwark Declaration and the Martin Luther letter appeared at Rochester Cathedral on Wednesday, the day after the 500th anniversary of the 95 Theses. Given the event earlier that month, this cathedral definitely deserved the rude awakening.

5. Canterbury Cathedral.

On Thursday, another concerned Anglican posted the Southwark Declaration inside Canterbury Cathedral. Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, serves not only as the archbishop for this cathedral but for the global Anglican Communion. Welby has pushed the LGBT narrative in the church, however, calling for “radical inclusion” this past February.

Welby acknowledged the “real and profound disagreement” on “marriage and same-sex relationships today,” and suggested that the answer to that disagreement is “a radical new Christian inclusion in the Church.”

“This must be founded in scripture, in reason, in tradition, in theology; it must be based on good, healthy, flourishing relationships, and in a proper 21st century understanding of being human and being sexual,” Welby declared.

This may sound positive, but the “21st century understanding of being human and being sexual” suggests a rejection of the traditional Christian (and clearly biblical) teaching that humans are made male and female, and that sexual activity is rightly reserved to marriage between one man and one woman. “Inclusion” of this sort implies exclusion of any Christian who embraces biblical teaching on sexuality.

The anonymous priest connected with the posting of the Southwark Declaration had strong words against Welby. “People have again and again and again gone to Justin Welby for an orthodox diocese and he has refused” to set up a place inside the Church of England for those who adhere to biblical doctrine on sexuality.

“He is not defending the faith, he is not guarding the flock, he is letter the wolves run ragged,” the priest declared. Even so, he hoped that Welby would notice the writing on the walls and alter his position on sexuality.

The Church of England stands at a crossroads, and the priest suggested that unless Welby embraces biblical sexuality, conservative Anglicans may leave the church in droves, joining splinter branches like the Anglican Church in North America (which broke from the U.S. Episcopal Church) or the leadership of Nigerian bishops.

UPDATE: Priest goes public.

“It is with great sadness that I posted the Southwark Declaration in Canterbury Cathedral,” Reverend Stephen Rae, vicar of St. James’ Church, Westgate-On-Sea, told PJ Media in a statement. “This building that stands sentinel over the Church of England has been a symbol of Anglican leadership with, perhaps, the greatest global reach for centuries.”

“Now it has become synonymous with abdication and dereliction of duty; it stands accused as a distracted and negligent parent that has abandoned its children,” Rae added. He quoted Ephesians, noting that the apostle Paul called “the faithful under-shepherd” to “guard the clock against the wolves that would seek to enter the fold.”

Citing the ordination oath the Church of England, Rae added, “We are not merely to assert biblical truth. We who have been entrusted with the precious gospel that speaks life into the hearts of wretched sinners are also called to drive away anything that would lead the flock away and into judgment.”

“God never calls his people to innovate in matters of first importance,” the vicar concluded. “If a leader of the church does this, he has misunderstood his calling. We are to hold out the radically inclusive gospel that leads to repentance and faith. Playing fast and loose with what God really meant when he said what he said never turns out well.”

‘But Jesus Never Said Anything About Homosexuality’

Friday, November 3rd, 2017

By BILL MUEHLENBERG
https://billmuehlenberg.com/
There are plenty of ways in which homosexual activists and their supporters seek to undermine the biblical view of homosexuality. One of the major tactics used by the revisionists is to simply make the claim that Jesus never said anything about the matter.

The idea is that he said nothing about it, so therefore it was no big deal to him, and so it should be no big deal to us. We hear this all the time, not only from secular activists but by quite clueless Christians as well. So how might we respond to such claims? Do they hold any water?

One really has to stretch things to come up with the claim that Jesus said nothing about homosexuality. Sure, he did not of course speak about things like homosexual marriage and the like. No one did back then, and basically no one did until just recently.

While the specific issue of homosexuality was not addressed, he did indeed speak plenty about God’s intentions for human sexuality and the like, as will be seen in a moment. But he certainly was not unaware of the great sin of homosexuality.

For example, Jesus did refer to the Sodom episode at various times (see Matthew 10:14-16; 11:23-25; Luke 10:11-13 and 17:28-32), and he knew full well what that was all about. But plenty of things are not directly discussed by Jesus. Arguing from silence is never a very helpful approach to take here.

It is also true that Jesus never said a word about rape, incest, child abuse, arson or pollution either. Are we to argue therefore that these behaviours are morally acceptable, and that Jesus has no problems with them? Is anything and everything OK if Jesus did not specifically mention it or condemn it?

The truth is, arguing from silence in these matters will get you nowhere fast, and it is foolish to even try to run with this tactic. Did Jesus approve of rape because he did not explicitly condemn it? Hardly. In the same way, Paul never once explicitly mentions the virgin birth. Did he therefore not believe in it?

The answer to this objection is quite simple. Jesus, as a good Jew of his day, shared the common Jewish understanding of homosexuality, which was to utterly oppose it. There was very little need for Jesus to proscribe homosexuality. It was a given in Jewish culture that it was an abomination to God and was not to be practised amongst the Jews.

Indeed, “the reason for Jesus’ silence on this matter is most likely the fact that homosexuality was virtually unknown in Jewish Palestine (it was considered the Gentile vice) and, therefore, unlikely to have come to Jesus’s attention” as Manfred Brauch puts it in his helpful book, Abusing Scripture.

Moreover, what Jesus did do throughout his ministry was to affirm the authority of the Old Testament, where the sin of homosexuality is of course clearly spelled out. We see this for example in such places as John 17:17 and Matthew 19:4-5.

But the argument that Jesus never condemned homosexuality needs to be considered from an even wider perspective. God’s plans for human sexuality have always been limited to that of male/female married sex. No other sexuality is allowed in the Bible.

And married heterosexual sexuality was established by God in the opening chapters of Genesis. That has always been, and forever will be, the divine intention for sex. Indeed, this is one of the most important considerations to bear on this subject.

The negative prohibitions against homosexuality must be seen in the light of the positive teaching about heterosexual marriage as elaborated in Genesis 1 and 2, and reaffirmed throughout Scripture. As James De Young puts it, “the creation of humans as male and female (Genesis 1) and the heterosexual union that constitutes marriage (Genesis 2) lie at the basis of the rest of Scripture and its comments about sexuality and marriage.”

God’s intention for human sexuality is laid out quite plainly in the early chapters of Genesis. John Stott says three fundamental truths emerge from the creation account of Genesis 1 and 2: 1) the human need for companionship; 2) the divine provision to meet this human need; and 3) the resulting institution of marriage. Genesis 2:24 makes it clear that one man and one woman only can constitute a marriage bond:

Thus Scripture defines the marriage God instituted in terms of heterosexual monogamy. It is the union of one man with one woman, which must be publicly acknowledged (the leaving of parents), permanently sealed (he will “cleave to his wife”), and physically consummated (‘”one flesh”). And Scripture envisages no other kind of marriage or sexual intercourse, for God provided no alternative.

As Old Testament scholar Kenneth Mathews says, “Without question 2:24 serves as the bedrock for Hebrew understanding of the centrality of the nuclear family for the survival of society. Monogamous heterosexual marriage was always viewed as the divine norm from the outset of creation.”

Or as Dr J. J. Davis says, “Human sexuality is reflected in the differentiation of two, not three or four, sexual genders, nor some androgynous combination of the two.” Homosexual couples cannot fulfill the command to be fruitful and multiply (Gen. 1:28).

Or as Greg Bahnsen reminds us: “It was God’s ordained design for sexual relations to be in the form of male-female union, man and wife becoming ‘one flesh,’ and God created the distinction between the sexes to that end. This creation of sexual differentiation by God from the beginning established heterosexuality as the normative direction for the sexual impulse and act.”

Moreover, this creation ordinance “is continually reaffirmed by the interpretations of the creation account in the New Testament.” Jesus affirms it in Mark 10:6-9 (= Matthew 19:4-6) for example, while Paul affirms it in I Corinthians 6:16 and Ephesians 5:31.

As ex-homosexual Bob Davies says, “Any alternative of this pattern is a distortion of God’s original plan.” The words of Jesus in Matthew 19 need to be spelled out here. In verses 4-6 we find this very strong affirmation of the Genesis ideal:

“‘Haven’t you read,’ he replied, ‘that at the beginning the Creator “made them male and female,” and said, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh”? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate’.”

As theologian and ethicist Stanley Grenz remarks, “Christians maintain that this radical teaching of Jesus forms the heart of the biblical understanding of marriage and as such constitutes the ideal in all eras.” American scholar Robert Gagnon concurs: Jesus

shows no awareness, much less acceptance, of any other pattern — even though no Jew in antiquity could have been oblivious to homosexual relationships among many Gentiles. There was no need for him to comment on whether homosexual unions should be permitted and, if so, whether his stance on divorce and remarriage should apply to them too. The creation texts authorized only one type of sexual union. It would have been a forgone conclusion for him that homoerotic relationships and human-animal unions, both proscribed in Leviticus, were unacceptable.

Thus heterosexual marriage as intended by God is the measuring rod by which we judge homosexuality or any other sexual expression. As Thomas Schmidt reminds us, “Every sexual act that the Bible calls sin is essentially a violation of marriage, whether existing or potential.”

Thus the theological revisionists will have to come up with something far better, more logical, and much more biblical, if they want to destroy the clear biblical teachings on homosexuality.