Thursday, 3 November 2011

'Out of Love for the Truth and Desire to Bring it to Light'

To mark Reformation Day, Dr Michael Jensen, a lecturer in theology at Moore College, the theological college of the Sydney Archdiocese of the Anglican Church of Australia and the largest theological college in Australia (note for American readers - these are not your typical liberal, high church Episcopalians; Sydney Anglicans take their Reformation heritage seriously and have led the response in the Anglican Communion to the recent heretical innovations of The Episcopal Church in the USA)) has posted 20 Theses on the subject 'Why the Reformation Is Not Over' (my post title links to his post at the Sydney Anglican website - if you click on it, the usual disclaimer applies: you are leaving this site, etc).

20 These on Why the Reformation is Not Over by Dr Michael Jensen
Whereas: -
1. Continued division between Christians who hold to the orthodox faith is deplorable and regrettable and we should work to heal it;
2. Insisting on division based on mere prejudice against Roman Catholics, or cultural snobbery, or ethnicity, or sectarianism is deplorable and should be repented of;
3. Hyped-up and largely loveless Protestant rhetoric and sabre-rattling for the love of mere aggression must be eschewed;
4. It is a matter of great rejoicing that Roman Catholic priests and lay people have discovered the Scriptures anew in recent years;
5. A person is not saved by assenting to justification by grace through faith alone;
6. Evangelical Christians have much to learn from the tradition of the Christian church over two millennia (as the Reformers themselves taught);
7. Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI are in many respects admirable, even extraordinary men;
8. We are increasingly needing to stand together with Roman Catholics on issues of social justice and religious freedom;
9. We have common cause with Roman Catholics against the New Atheism and the other forms of intellectual secularism;
10. I rejoice in a number of Christian friendships with Roman Catholics whom I happy to call brothers in Christ and from whom I have learnt much;

it is still the case that: -
11. The Roman Catholic Church still insists that the authority of Scripture is subject to the interpretation of the Church, and indeed is a creation of the Church;
12. The Roman Catholic Church still asserts the supremacy of the Bishop of Rome in the Church – however carefully this is nuanced – and his infallibility in matters of faith;
13. The Roman Catholic Church, despite lengthy and peaceful deliberations with Lutherans and Anglicans on the matter, still holds a semi-Pelagian view on the doctrine of justification – that is, the believer in whatever small way, still is able to co-operate with the grace of God and earn the rewards of heaven;
14. Roman Catholics still determine to define faith as ‘assenting to doctrines’ rather than ‘personal trust’, and therefore put the emphasis on love;
15. Justification by grace alone is in practice denied by a view of the sacraments as the operative vehicles of God’s grace;
16. Despite modifications to Roman Catholic teaching on the afterlife in recent years, purgatory is still an official teaching of the Church;
17. The Roman Catholic Church still affirms as dogmas several non-Scriptural (and I would argue, contra-Scriptural) teachings: namely, the perpetual virginity of the Mary, her immaculate conception and her assumption;
18. Devotion to and prayer to the saints is still very much part of Roman Catholic spirituality and teaching;
19. The Roman Catholic Church maintains that Christians who are not members of the Church of Rome are at best ‘separated brethren’ and are not admitted to the Lord’s Table;

And thus:
20. There is still need to maintain a separation between the Church of Rome and the churches of the Reformation.

What do you think, readers?

I post my own '5 Theses' in response to Michael:

5 Theses on Evangelical Lutheran-Evangelical Anglican Relations

1. Evangelical Anglicans are orthodox Christians who confess the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds
2. Evangelical Anglicans believe and teach that we are justified on account of Christ through faith ('propter Christum per fidem') to the exclusion of works
3. Evangelical Anglicans believe and teach that scripture alone is the rule and norm according to which doctrine and teachers must be judged
4. The English Reformation, to which Evangelical Anglicans are heirs, advanced in its early years through constructive dialogue with the Lutheran Reformers in Wittenberg

This Evangelical Lutheran rejoices in our common Reformation heritage and wishes that the mutual conversation which existed in the days of Dr Sasse and Sir Marcus Loane could be restored.

However, as
4. Evangelical Anglicans deny that grace is truly offered trough Holy Baptism and also deny that in the Lord's Supper communicants receive the true body and blood of Christ given and shed for the forgiveness of our sins, and continue to teach against these wholesome scriptural doctrines which are full of evangelical comfort for repentant sinners

This Evangelical Lutheran, out of love for the truth and desire to bring it to light, declares
5. There is still a need to maintain a separation at altar and pulpit between Evangelical Lutherans and Evangelical Anglicans.

Just for the record, my paternal grandfather (who died when I was only two) was chairman of a Sydney Anglican congregation in the early 1960s and I am grateful for having first learned the evangelical doctrines of grace and scripture through the Anglican '39 Articles of Faith' and Evangelical Anglican authors - foreign readers should note that the Lutheran Church does not have a high profile in Australia outside of a few rural enclaves where Lutherans first settled; 1 in 4 Australians is Anglican, barely 2 in a 100 are Lutheran.


michael jensen said...

Thanks - but separation at altar and pulpit?

We may continue to walk apart organisationally, but - you are welcome to the table in my church... and pulpit.

Pr Mark Henderson said...

Thanks Michael - but ecclesiastical separation means nothing if not separation at altar and pulpit - this is a traditional Reformation doctrine. I'd gladly hear you preach, though :0)

Pr Mark Henderson said...

Further explication might be warranted: 'Altar and pulpit fellowship' is the Lutheran terminology for 'communio in sacris', communion in holy things, i.e. joint communion. For confessional Lutherans it is the terminus of unity, not a means thereto (Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox hold the same view, although I'm aware it's not a widespread view in the Anglican Communion). The Lutheran guarding of the pulpit serves to preserve the true evangelical doctrine. Thanks again for your interest, Michael.

joel in ga said...

Michael, I agree that arbitrary barriers to Table fellowship are unwarranted by Scripture. This Lutheran therefore would gladly take Holy Communion at your church. Long live Anglican catholicity!

Pr Mark Henderson said...


How do you define 'arbitrary' in this context?

Rubati said...

Pr Mark Henderson,

I wonder if you would be willing to take the time to respond to this Lutheran reflection on closed communion.

The essence of his argument is that to deny altar fellowship is effectively excommunication, i.e. that those whom you deny fellowship at the table are not Christians. Luther himself did not regard the Reformed and anabaptists as Christians and thus is at least consistent (although one might say intolerant and divisive). However, it seems impossible to affirm that certain people are Christians and fellow brothers/sisters in Christ and yet deny table fellowship with them.

Pr Mark Henderson said...

Dear Rubati,

Thanks for reading my blog and your question.

Luther often expressed himself in heightened rhetoric, as was the custom of the day, but I'm sure he never definitively said that the Reformed or those under the Pope for that matter, were not Christians (the situation with the Anabaptists is complicated, but we won't go into that here.) In any case, what Luther wrote is not necessarily authoritative for our church, which is guided by holy scripture and the Lutheran confessions as the correct exposition of scripture.

Having said that, does closed communion equate to excommunication of non-Lutherans? Not at all. To begin with, the Lutheran Church has no authority over those not in its fellowship - how could we then excommunicate them? What we do have authority over, as delegated from the Lord, is the sacrament of the alter. On that the Lord's word, through the apostle Paul, is clear - where there are divisions among Christians the celebration together of the sacrament is not commended -1 Cor 11 17f. Also, with particular reference to the Reformed, where the sacramental presence of the body and blood of the Lord are not discerned a communicant may eat and drink judgement upon himself (1 Cor 11:29). A Lutheran minister could incur guilt if he knowingly communed someone who did not believe or was not properly instructed in the Biblical doctrine of the sacrament. For this reason Lutheran also do not ordinarily commune infants or the uninstructed even if they have been baptised in a Lutheran church.

Now, do we, by ordinarily following this instruction, make a judgement on the Christian status of Anglicans, Reformed et al? Not at all. All who are properly baptised and who confess the Triune God are recognised by us as Christians on the basis of these outward marks of profession. If they wish to commune with us, we only ask that we first attain doctrinal unity, that we all may confess the 'faith once delivered' following 'the pattern of sound words' that we have from the apostles' writings.

Pr Mark Henderson said...

In my haste to reply I have made a typo - that should be sacrament of the 'altar'!

Rubati said...

Thanks Pastor for your response, but I guess the fundamental question is, is the holy communion constitutive of, erm, communion in Christ. If it is, then to not communicate others does equate to excommunication (almost by definition it seems!). But if holy communion is not constitutive of communion in Christ, well, that would spell some trouble with the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist...

Pr Mark Henderson said...

Dear Rubati,

Yes! I would say that faith - properly understood as a gift of God - is constitutive of union with Christ, and the sacrament of the altar enacts and deepens this faith. What do you think?

Rubati said...

Haha Pastor, you're very sneaky, you're shifting the terms of discussion from whether the *Holy Communion* is constitutive of union with Christ, to *faith* being constitutive of Christ. I don't think anyone would deny that faith does constitute communion with Christ, the question is, is the Eucharist also?

And your answer is a little ambiguous. On the one hand, the phrase "deepens this faith" suggest that it is not, that the Holy Communion is a deepening of communion with Christ after the fact. On the other hand, the word "enacts" seems to suggest that the Holy Communion "enacts" the faith, which is constitutive of communion with Christ, unto us. If the former, then the Eucharist isn't constitutive of communion with Christ, and to bar someone from the Eucharist is to merely prevent a "deepening" of communion with Christ. If the latter, then it is a much more serious matter to prevent people from the Eucharist, an act of effectively preventing faith, and thereby communion with Christ, from being "enacted" in them, thereby being an "excommunication".

Here is another way of looking at it: Is preventing Reformed and other deniers of the real presence from the Eucharist merely "regulative", like preventing non-ordained laity from celebrating the Eucharist, and requiring "ordination" before permitting the celebration of the Eucharist, not this implies that a Church without ordained ministers would be deprived or lack the means of grace and salvation, but that because ordination into the office of preaching is a divine mandate, therefore the Church obeys and have it, but it is not so inseperably linked to salvation, it is merely a divine "regulation" in that sense, or is denying the Reformed from the Eucharist *disciplinary*, like preventing notorious unrepentance sinners who have provoked public scandal from the Eucharist with a demand for repentance before restoration to the Holy Communion. I believe that Lutheran Confessions does consider this as "excommuncation", so is denying the Reformed from the Eucharist likewise a "disciplinary move", a calling them to repent of their denial of the real presence, to confess the truth of this dogma, before they are restored to communion? If so, then this is effectively an "excommunication" of the Reformed, a disciplinary putting out of the Reformed for their dogmatic errors until they repent.

Rubati said...

opps, I forgot to tick email follow up comments, let me just post this to enable that. :P

Pr Mark Henderson said...

Hi Rubati,

Yes, I have been known to be sneaky :0)

Nnow, I am heading into the busy part of my week, so give me until Monday or Tuesday to reflect upon what you've writtena nd formulate a response. Thanks for dropping by!