Friday, November 10, 2017

My Personal Reflections on the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation .....

Thursday, October 26, 2017

To be a Lutheran (Protestant) is to be Catholic .....

Let us be clear be a Protestant (in the original, classical, confessional sense, particularly as a Lutheran) is to be a catholic or an evangelical catholic, nothing more, nothing less --- the Reformation was never ever the creation or invention of a new faith but the very restoration of the apostolic faith that is embodied in the creeds (that represents the corporate response of the Church to the proclamation of the Scriptures and hence sola Scriptura), liturgy (that represents the corporate response of the Church to the saving work of the Triune God in the living present/ presence! - in the here and now) - and ancient traditions of the Church (such as the use and practice of sign of the Cross which constitute a 'sacramental', the prominent display of the Crucifix, kneeling at the reception of the true, real and personal Body and Blood of Our Saviour, the wearing of vestments in the form of the chasuble and stole by the priest, etc.) .....

The Heidelberg Disputation (1518) .....

Very brief and quick rumination on the meaning of the Reformation .....

As the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation approaches (as 'officially' recognised to fall on 31 October), it is germane to reflect a little and in a cursory manner on its continuing relevance despite the on-going 'agenda' of detractors both within and outside this great and unparalleled tradition to side-track and distract and skew what lie at the very root and heart and centre of Luther's theological breakthrough (which simultaneously summarised, contextualised, epitomised and embodied his 'spiritual,' 'religious' and 'psychological' eureka moment or 'transformation' or 'renewal'), namely that the human is justified by faith alone as the essence of personhood defining the creature of the Word of God Who says what He does and does what He says and as such creates and re-creates out of nothing and out of pure goodness only so that creation ex nihilo reflects and emanates and flows from the very heart of the Father as the font and source and origin of the divine life of the eternal and undivided Trinity of, in, and through which we share and participate therein so that therefore the divine love constitutes and forms and guarantees the exclusive basis and foundation and decree whereby the gospel is proclaimed in its oral and sacramental forms to the death of the old Adam/ Eve and the resurrection of the new Adam/ Eve that thus characterises the restoration of the lost divine-human relationship as sheer and pure and unmerited GIFT from the beginning to the end .....

Saturday, October 21, 2017


Thursday, June 21, 2007

Hypostatic Union, Imputation at the Cross and Forensic Justification ...

The connection between the Hypostatic Union of the Two Natures of Christ and Objective Justification at the Cross is the connection between the Person and Work of Christ. The Person of Christ cannot be separated from His Work. That there is an "additional union" between the Hypostatic Union and Christ's Work cannot be denied.

The question is, what kind of union is this? The fact of the union is established by virtue of Christ assuming the role of a Mediator and Intercessor for the human race. The defining issue is what is the mode of this type of union, i.e. between His Person and Work?

To determine the mode and effect of the union, there must needs be an understanding or at least an appreciation that the Catholic faith compels us to recognise that the concept of the 'Person' has priority and primacy over the concept of "Nature". This is clear from Holy Scripture and the creedal tradition of the Church which speak of Three Distinct Persons forming the Godhead. The "Substance" of God which is identified with the Godhead (i.e. the "unitive principle" of the Trinity) is equivalent to the Nature of God or the characteristics of Divinity such as omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence. And this "Nature" or "Substance", otherwise known as "Essence" is primarily and principally possessed or "embodied" by God the Father Almighty Who is identified as the epistemological and ontological starting-point.

Since the Father is the Sole Ingenerate Source and Cause of the Godhead, this means that the same unitary Substance or Essence of the First Person is possessed by the Other Two Persons wholly and simultaneously in Themselves through immanent generation and procession: The Father has the Substance in its fulness, the Son likewise and the Holy Spirit likewise. The identity of the Essence makes it impossible for the Trinity to exist without One of the Persons included. The absolute uniqueness of the Triune Personhood makes it impossible for the One to be collapsed into the Other without confusing Nature with Person. The implication of this truth is that vis-a-vis God, Person determines Nature, not vice-versa. By the term 'determined', it is emphatically meant that the particularising characteristics of the Person gives concrete expression to the manifestation of the Nature in all its attributes. It is the Person of the Father Who wills to elect a Church in His beloved Son, that is, infallibly and efficaciously cause to happen the immutable and unchangeable salvation of certain individuals through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. The 'will' inheres in Divine Nature as an attribute possessing potentiality, but It (i.e. the Divine Nature) does not act or operate from within Itself but that the power (dunamis) is animated, demonstrated or instantiated (energeia), i.e. given a mode of expression by the Triune Persons.

Now, the primacy and priority of Person over Nature as epitomised by the Chalcedonian Definition has implications for how we are to understand the Incarnation and Atonement.

(To be cont. ...)

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Letter to the English Churchman on High Churchmen and Puritans

Dear Sir,

The Rev. John J. Harding's review of 'Wesley and Men who Followed' (EC 7631) was balanced and highly commendable. If I may, I would like to contribute a bit to the whole issue of hyper-Calvinism versus genuine Calvinism. It is one of the greatest ironies of historical theology that the specific doctrinal view on the salvific will of God in relation to the non-elect as held by the 'high churchmen' in the Elizabethan Church and the Caroline divines would come to be shared by the successors of the puritan separatists. Both the 'popish' churchmen and puritans shared a common pastoral concern, including the need to combat antinomianism (a perversion of Reformation theology).

In due time however, the dogmatic significance of the decretive (i.e. predestinating or secret) will of God (based on His foreknowledge) - as understood within puritan circles - would be diminished in favour of His preceptive (i.e. revelatory/revealed) will. The latter term was to be redefined - due to Amyraldian influences within 17th century mainstream Calvinism - and hence misused to mean a divine intention or optative will, co-existing alongside the eternal and unchangeable predestinating will in the essence of the Three Hypostases.

Already such a notion of a two-fold will of God is to be found in Richard Hooker who was no father of 'Anglo-Catholicism' and whose ceremonial views were mild by the standards of Caroline divinity. Churchmen like him represented - at the height of the Predestinarian Consensus of the Reformed English Church during the Elizabethan period - the 'fringe' or minority whereas the disciplinarian archbishop, John Whitgift clearly belonged to the mainstream alongside the moderate puritan William Perkins. Toplady in his 'Historic Proof of the Doctrinal Calvinism of the Church of England', though prejudiced against the pre-1662 Laudians (influenced by the account of Peter Heylyn the polemicist), nevertheless was correct in his overall historical assessment which identifies one of the distinctive features of the Lambeth Articles (1595) as positing the desire of God to save only the elect.

The spectrum of theological views within the Church of England was to change drastically with the accession of James 1, with sacramental-minded churchmen like John Overall who were more inclined towards the non-Reformed Protestants, i.e. Lutherans (by then heading in a scholastic direction: essentially, post-Luther Lutheranism as embodied by Lutheran Orthodoxy subsided into a single predestinarian theology) gaining prominence (in tandem with the rise of Reformed scholasticism in Continental Europe which consolidated the double predestinarian system commonly associated with John Calvin). The ecumenical endeavours of the Presbyterian-born King James 1 had already eroded the so-called rigid Calvinism of the mainstream within the Church. More concessions in the interest of reconciliation with the Lutherans at the Synod of Dordt, including also accommodating the views of the Bremen churches - on the sufficiency of the atonement - muddied the theological waters of English Calvinism.

The Caroline divines, notwithstanding the liberal appropriation of medieval scholastic and even Tridentine terminology to express their sacramental theology were mostly single predestinarians and upheld justification by faith alone, in stark contrast to John Wesley (the 18th century high churchman) who despite puritan upbringing denied election (never mind reprobation), conceived justification as purely acquittal from guilt (declarative minus imputation) and was known to have denied the perseverance of the saints (contradicting Articles 11, 16 and 17), in common with Roman Catholicism. Such heterodoxy does not fall, historically speaking - within the broad spectrum of classical Protestantism, notwithstanding Wesley's evangelistic reputation and therefore any ecclesiastical relations with Arminian churches must derogate from the traditional Reformed policy as formulated at the holy ecumenical synod of Dordt (1617-1618).

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Letter to the English Churchman on Canon Law, and Sacramental & Liturgical Theology

Dear Sir
Re: Deposited Prayer-Book (1927) and all that ...

I would like to follow up on the front page article of EC 7628, and David Relf's letter (EC 7629) concerning canon law, the Gorham case and the Deposited Prayer-Book respectively.

Firstly, the See of Rome does not recognise the canon law of the Church of England and - alongside with it - the episcopal credentials of its 'apostolic succession' (e.g. Apostolicae Curae, 1897) precisely because of the break of communion between the two. However, the Reformed English Church inherited her pre-Reformation canon law substantially intact with significant modification (i.e. the procedural discipline and material corpus are now grounded in royal authority, and indirectly, Parliament's legislation for their enforcement, e.g. through the Act of Uniformity, 1559).

Secondly, the Gorham decision at the Privy Council demonstrated that the appellant (i.e. Rev. George Cornelius Gorham) agreed with the Bp. of Exeter (i.e. Henry Philpotts) as to the 'ordinary connection' between the grace of the Holy Spirit and the Sacrament of Baptism (cf. Article 25). They also shared a common notion of Regeneration (as instantaneous/an event which excludes a priori experience and eludes subjective description).

Where they differed was to the timing of Regeneration, i.e. whether 'ORIGINAL' prevenient grace was bound to Baptism or not in respect of infants. The answer depended on the role of Baptism and, by extension, the scope of baptismal efficacy which - the old-fashioned High Churchman (albeit POST-1662/Arminian) - Philpotts construed as applying ex opere operato (i.e. invariably) though without the concomitance of 'renovation' (i.e. inner change) or 'conversion' (the mutual inclusiveness of both is held by Roman, Tractarian and Calvinist alike), which means Baptismal Regeneration, according to this theory (also held by the first two traditions) is informed by ecclesiastical election ('monergistic') but 'final salvation' is based on God's foreknowledge of who will persevere to the end('synergistic'). Only Calvinists like Gorham limited Regeneration in Baptism (if it occurs during the administration of the rite) to elect infants only because the order of salvation (ordo salutis) is grounded in sovereign predestination, thus, making the entire 'chain of salvation' (in ordinary LOGICAL, as distinguished from temporal, sequence) inseparable: Election, Regeneration, Calling, Conversion (Definitive Sanctification), Faith (& Repentance), Baptism, Justification, Sanctification/Conversion, Glorification.

Thirdly, the Deposited Prayer-Book (1927) attempted to redress Roman proclivities on ecumenical and devotional issues within a liturgical context. Thus, the aim was to maintain so-called Anglican comprehensiveness whilst supressing illegal practices through pastoral methods within the Prayer-Book tradition. It included prominently the formulation of an alternative Eucharistic (Consecration) Prayer ('a Canon within Canon') drafted by scholars like Walter Howard Frere (Bp. of Truro) who looked to the 'East' (both early and Byzantine), the 1549 'Invocation' and subsequent 'epicleses' (e.g. 1637, 1764) - of the 'greater Anglican tradition' of which the Caroline divines were the best representatives in the terms of the catholic heritage of the Church - for inspiration and resources.

It was conceived as a liturgical measure (backed by ecclesiastical sanction) partly to rein in on popular abuses associated either with 'Transubstantiation' or a locaLISED (not 'local') presence - and the concomitant theory of the propitiatory Sacrifice of the Mass - according to extreme Anglo-Catholic gloss of the Words of Institution (WOI: Narrative component) in 1662 Office.

Perhaps a possible strategy by classical Anglicans (i.e. Prayer-Book evangelicals) in 1927 to counter 'Anglo-Catholic influence was to reclaim the liturgical inheritance of the Caroline divines or PRE-1662 Laudians, i.e. Reformation High-Church Protestants (the majority of which, with the exception Jeremy Taylor, held to single predestination and forensic justification, including the venerable Abps. William Laud and Richard Neile of York) who with the moderate Puritan divines shared a common concern for the inclusion of an explicit Invocation and restoration of manual acts in conjunction with the WOI (the latter of which was to be incorporated at the Savoy Conference, 1661). The liturgical divergence was in the treatment of the WOI, i.e. whether set within the context of a prayer (which the Prayer-Book tradition undeniably places it) or in a mono-didactic role (as in Continental Reformed and Presbyterian traditions).

The notion of an epiclesis alongside the WOI gives full expression to the intent of the Church to commemorate the Lord's Supper in the words and action of the liturgy. God the Father is invoked to send down His Spirit to 'bless (or approve) and sanctify (or set apart) these gifts of bread and wine' in hypostatic union and conjunction with the (written) Word 'so that these may be unto us (by faith) the Body and Blood of Christ'. This is where the sanctification of the species/elements and people is concentrated at the point immediately prior to reception.

Implicit in this invocation is the Eucharist primarily as a divine action in which the human response (i.e. gratitude) is set within the 'use' (presentation/oblation-prayer/invocation sequence and communion/reception) of the sacramental species which includes a 'pleading' - by the COMMON priesthood - of the merits of the 'one oblation of Christ finished upon the Cross', as per Article 31 through locating the post-communion offertory of praise and thanksgiving (sacrificium laudis) after the Invocation/epiclesis. This is distinguished sharply from the mainstream Anglo-Catholic 'co-offering' with Christ of His perpetual heavenly sacrifice.

Whether the placement of the 'epiclesis' is before or after the WOI and Oblation/anamnesis is insignificant if 'Calvinistic' sacramental theology of the Real Presence (both Calvin's and Cranmer's Virtualism) as representing the best of mature Anglican reflection in the Eucharist is again asserted in its rightful place in the Communion Office 'configurated' by the supplemental components of Sursum Corda, Sanctus, Prayer of Humble Access, Lord's Prayer, Gloria in exclesis Deo, etc. Note too that Westminster Puritanism in its 1645 Directory for Public Worship contains a similar invocation (last paragraph of the prayer), albeit outside the perimeters of its Narrative component.

Lastly, however, I am bound my reverence to our Protestant forefathers, including the then Conservative MP, William Joynson-Hicks (later Lord Brentford) and its authentic contemporary embodiment in the Church of England (Continuing) to 'reject' the Deposited Prayer-Book (1927) as an alternative to the BCP (1662).

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

Coming Up Next ...

Triadology ...

  • Augustinian Filioquism and Byzantine Monarchianism - A Synthesis in the Ordo Theologiae?
Christology ...
  • Hypostatic Union and Imputation
  • Christ's sinlessness and Original Sin

Soteriology ...

  • The salvific will of God
  • Eucharist, Justification and Sanctification

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