Saturday, February 20, 2010

Anglican Values

Among other things, Anglican Christianity is:

Biblically Focused
"The Holy Ghost rides most triumphantly in his own chariot [i.e., Scripture]."
– Thomas Manton (1620-1677)

"The first [proposition] is this: If we believe in God at all, it is absurd and impious to imagine that we can find him out by our own reason, without his being first active in revealing himself to us. Therefore all our discovery of him is his self-manifestation, and all rational theology is revealed theology."
– Austin Farrer (1904-1968)

Rooted in Tradition
Recognizing that the Holy Spirit's inspiration is not limited to scripture, Anglican Christianity looks to a broader foundation:

"One canon reduced to writing by God himself, two testaments, three creeds, four general councils, five centuries, and the series of Fathers in that period – the centuries that is, before Constantine, and two after, determine the boundary of our faith."
– Lancelot Andrewes (1555-1626)

However hobbled by human sin, reason is an essential means of understanding what God has revealed to us:

"The Holy Ghost is not a bird of prey sent by God to peck out the eyes of [humans]."
– Nathaniel Culverwel (1619-1651)

"And this is the second proposition: If God does reveal himself to us, we cannot acknowledge or master what he reveals without the use of reason. Therefore all his self-manifestation is also our discovery of him, and all revealed theology is rational theology."
– Austen Farrer

Centered in Worship and Prayer
Anglicans do theology "to the sound of church bells, for that is what Christian theology really is all about – worshipping God the Savior through Jesus Christ in the theology of the apostolic age."
– Michael Ramsey (1904-1988), Anglican Spirit

"Christ said 'this is my body.' He did not say 'this is my body in this way'. We are in agreement with you as to the end; the whole controversy is as to the method. As to the 'This', we hold with firm faith that it is. As to the 'this is in this way', (namely by the Transubstantiation of the bread into the body), as to the method whereby it happens that it is, by means of In or With or Under or By transition there is no word expressed [in Scripture]. And because there is no word, we rightly make it not of faith; we place it perhaps among the theories of the school, but not among the articles of the faith...We believe no less than you that the presence is real. Concerning the method of the presence, we define nothing rashly, and I add, we do not anxiously inquire, any more than how the blood of Christ washes us in Baptism, any more than how the human and divine natures are united in one Person in the Incarnation of Christ."
– Lancelot Andrewes (1555-1626) Response to Cardinal Bellarmine

"The Eucharist demonstrates that material reality can become charged with Jesus' life, and so proclaimed hope for the whole world of matter....The matter of the Eucharist, carrying the presence of the risen Jesus, can only be a sign of life, of triumph over the death of exclusion and isolation...If the Eucharist is a sign of the ultimate Lordship of Jesus, his 'freedom' to unite to himself the whole material order as a symbol of grace, it speaks of creation itself, and the place of Jesus in creation."
– Rowan Williams (1950- ), Resurrection: Interpreting the Easter Gospel
(The last two quotes via The Byzantine Anglo-Catholic)

Catholic and Protestant/Evangelical
"Our special character and, as we believe, our peculiar contribution to the Universal Church, arises from the fact that owing to historic circumstances, we have been enabled to combine in our one fellowship the traditional Faith and Order of the Catholic Church with that immediacy of approach to God through Christ to which the Evangelical Churches especially bear witness, and freedom of intellectual inquiry, whereby the correlation of the Christian revelation and advancing knowledge is constantly effected."
– William Temple (1881-1944), Encyclical, Lambeth 1930
(via Contemplative Vernacular)

Liberally Catholic and Generously Orthodox
Anglican Christianity seeks to embody a liberal catholicity, generous orthodoxy. It is catholic/orthodox in its commitment to the consensus of the first centuries as expressed in the early councils and the creeds. It is, as Charles Gore wrote, "conspicuously orthodox on the great fundamentals of the Trinity and the Incarnation. [Anglicanism] accepts the ecumenical councils as criteria of heresy." It is liberal/generous in its ability to reexamine how that consensus is applied in concrete historical contexts: ". . . standing ready with the whole treasury of Christian truth unimpaired to meet the demands which a new age makes upon it with its new developments of character and circumstance."

Anglican Christianity avoids the extremes "represented by a dogmatism that crushes instead of quickening the reason of the individual, making it purely passive and acquiescent, and on the other hand by an unrestrained development of the individual judgment which becomes eccentric and lawless just because it is unrestrained."
– Charles Gore (1852-1932), Roman Catholic Claims

Passionate, but Patient
Anglican Christianity is characterized by what Rowan Williams calls a "passionate patience" that is reticent to declare too handily exactly how God is to defined or to presume too easily to know what God desires in all instances. Continuing with Williams, "There is in the Anglican identity a strong element of awareness of the tragic, of the dark night and the frustration of theory and order by the strangeness of God's work." [ . . . ] "The result is a mixture of poetry, reticence, humility before mystery, local loyalties and painful self-scrutinies."
– Rowan Williams, Anglican Identities


Dan Martins said...


Lyndon said...

Thanks, Matt.
I would only add that attention to 'tradition' ought to be more teleological in character; that is, what are we pursuing that reflects the 'goods' of our Anglican tradition, and how are we pursuing them? 'Tradition' isn't something we possess, it defines the character of our journey. Tradition is our reason, lived in human history.

Matt Gunter said...

Thanks, Dan and Lyndon.

Lyndon, I'd like to hear more about the teleological nature of tradition. I also wrote a brief bit about tradition here:

Lyndon said...

Matt, at one level a teleological understanding of tradition includes what you mention in your linked piece: "The tradition of the church is not a problem to be overcome, but a community in time to which we belong and with which it is possible to dialogue." Tradition is, to quote MacIntyre, "constituted by a continuous argument" as to what the church is and ought to be. It is a fiction to suppose that this dialogue or argument can happen in a historical vacumn.

As human animals, we are shaped by inherited language (and therefore, inherited rationality); consequently, the way we engage (or not) in the imaginative and conceptual possibilities available to us is restricted by our embodiment of the past in the present, and our hopes and goals for the future. It is the question of what our goals are within a tradition that maintains it that will make the tradition either vital or just another anachronistic ideal constituted through a refusal to answer asked questions.

Tradition is teleological because it defines a complex life (not simply an inheritance of teaching) in which some parts (e.g. our practice of the eucharist) come to throw unexpected light on other parts (e.g. the political character of the church in a late capitalistic society, ala the work of Bill Cavanaugh). We can only discover these connections if we are asking ourselves about what makes our pursuits good, and how do the 'goods' of our pursuits shape our character. This is why 'novelty' within a tradition can reek havoc. If we lack the character instituted through dialouge and argument, and through attention to the goods pursuant as a specific tradition, then we will lack the prudence necessary to judge some novelty as good, and some as corrosive.

What I am trying to move away from is the idea that tradition is what we appeal to rather than the manner of our life together within the territory of a shared doxa and praxis (that is, as a form of life constituted by the Word made flesh - the language of God spoken in us). I still have a ways to go with this line of reasoning.

Matt Gunter said...

I'm with you regarding tradition as a complex way of life. It certainly must be more than "this is how we've always done it." Or even, this is how it was done in some supposed pristine, golden age. Nor is it static.

I agree that tradition is not just a set of beliefs but a manner of life. One of the challenges is that, shaped as we are by consumerism and individualism, we no longer have much in the way of a complex of shared (traditional) practices and habits that by which we are all together formed.

Still, I wonder if we can avoid understanding one aspect of "tradition" being something to which we appeal, ala Andrewes. The doxa and praxis that we hope to share, after all, is shared with those who have gone before us. It is by returning (though not uncritically) to their expression of the doxa and praxis - in word and deed, community and worship - that we determine whether or not it is indeed shared.

Lyndon said...

Matt, the manner of articulating tradition as an 'appeal' is what i meant by saying, "the way we engage (or not) in the imaginative and conceptual possibilities available to us is restricted by our embodiment of the past in the present, and our hopes and goals for the future." The notion of appeal is met in the restricted nature of our doxa and praxis as embodiments, or better yet, obedience patterned on the obedience of Jesus. It is the practice of a patterned imagination that allows for our obedience to be more than allegiance to particular (and it is always, particular) features of the past. This makes tradition both stable and unstable at the same time. It is like a rope woven of a thousand different strands and we never know ahead of time how the strands might instruct or what will be revealed as we risk answering the questions posed by circumstance and culture.
Again, this is why character (i.e. a mature disposition) is necessary so as to avoid rejecting the authority of the past altogether, or clinging to the past as if it is a unchanging monolith. We can only truly say we are a church 'tradition' if our fundamental means and commitments entails the courage to live, work and die in the darkness in which Jesus himself lived and died. The visibility of our shared tradition will be best displayed in the sacramental visibility of the church as the sign of humanity being brought (occasionally kicking and screaming, and sometimes singing and dancing) towards eternal life under the kingship of God.

Pradusz and Loukas said...

A very interesting summary. Of course, one can always discuss particular moments and the discussion about the tradition and the role it plays in Anglicanism I find interesting too.
What I personally would like to add to it is that we are a part of the Tradition, a living and active part. If the Tradtion can be called a living stream of the human experience of the Divine we are a drop in it.
We would very much like toe translate this article to Polish and publish it on our blog.

Matt Gunter said...

Thanks, Loukas.

You are welcome to translate it as you wish.


Life got crazy and I haven't been able to respond to yopur last comment. I think that we are in basic agreement.

Lyndon said...

Very good. Thanks, Matt.