Anglican Tidbit: Benedictus es, Domine

This tidbit was an old favourite of mine back home. First, the canticle itself, from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer:

It was introduced with the 1928 BCP. Before that (and in the 1662 BCP) you only had two choices between the First and Second Lessons of Morning Prayer:

  • Te Deum Laudamus, that magnificent hymn that many French martyrs sang to their beheading during the French Revolution. However, like the Gloria in Excelsis, it’s notoriously difficult.
  • Benedicte, Omnia Opera, the deuterocanonical/apocryphal (take your pick) song of Shadrach, Mishach and Abed-Nego in Nebuchadnezzar’s fiery furnace. If that’s what they sang in the furnace, there’s no doubt that they had divine asbestos in their clothing: it’s very, very long.

With the Benedictus es, Domine, a shorter piece between the lessons was possible, and our youth choir took advantage of that.

Below is an actual proper Anglican performance of same, at St. John’s Church in Detroit.

It shares a common defect with many proper Anglican performances: the organ, the sole instrument allowed, gets progressively louder, drowning out the choir and making it impossible for the congregation to sing along. This was a fault with much of the worship I grew up with. Unfortunately, loud organs wouldn’t end with my years as an Episcopalian, and now loud organs are replaced with loud praise and worship teams, with the same result: inhibiting the congregation’s desire and ability to join in the worship.

Elevations on the effects which the Incarnate Word produces on men immediately after his Incarnation

These elevations concern Mary’s visitation to her cousin Elizabeth, who was pregnant with John the Baptist. It includes an exposition of Mary’s canticle the Magnificat, shown below. The elevations are as follows: Elevations on the effects which the Incarnate Word produces on men immediately after his Incarnation: 1, Mary goes to visit Saint Elizabeth. Elevations on […]

Elevations on the effects which the Incarnate Word produces on men immediately after his Incarnation

The Reformed vs. Athanasian/Nicene Approach to God

An interesting comparison by Bobby Grow:

Scholastic Reformed theologians claim to be in line with Nicene theology proper. But when you read scholastic Reformed theology, particularly their confessions, what becomes immediately apparent is that scholastic Reformed theology operates out of the apophatic ‘negative’ and/or speculative tradition for thinking a doctrine of God (and Christ); whereas Nicene theology thinks from cataphatic ‘positive’ and/or revealed theology for thinking God. By way of prolegomena or theological methodology this places Niceno-Constantinopolitano theology at loggerheads with something like we see in the scholastically Reformed Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF).

First, the Reformed theologians aren’t the only ones working in an apophatic tradition. Moses Maimonides did likewise, and his contribution is certainly valued by Aquinas and myself.

Second, I am inclined to think that Grow is right on this point. As frequent visitors to this site will attest, I’m not much on Reformed theology in any form, and as the years pass I get progressively sourer on the subject. Pieces like this only justify my antipathy.

Third, I think it’s fair to say that Scholastic theology, of which I am an enthusiastic student, started to go downhill after Aquinas, which is the opposite of the narrative that, say, Francis Schaffer was so enamoured with. The idea of a “Reformed Scholasticism” is somewhere between an oxymoron and a sign of the decline that began years before Calvin and Luther.

Fourth, I wonder if this apophatic aspect of Reformed scholasticism made it easy for the Sydney Anglicans to come up with their lame idea of functional subordination in the Trinity without essential subordination. That’s just speculation on my part.

The one part I’m not so sure about is this:

But this is to our point: to think God from speculative philosophical notions, as the Arians and Homoiousions did, only leads to unbiblical conclusions, and thus grammar about who God is; indeed, it thinks of God in terms of whatness rather than whoness as a first-step. Athanasius, and the Nicene theology he helped develop, repudiated thinking God from Hellenic frames of reference, and instead allowed God’s Self-revelation in the Son, Jesus Christ, to shape the way he, and the other Nicenes, thought God.

As I’ve noted elsewhere, the whole Arian controversy ran in the context of Greek philosophy. Athanasius and his homoousion colleagues simply did a better job aligning it with the Scriptures. It was ultimately beyond the ken of Greek philosophy to explain essential subordination in the triune Godhead, but I think that problem can be solved.

Book Review: William Palmer Ladd’s Prayer Book Interleaves

Significant movements and trends in both history in general and the church in particular tend to be long term. That’s one reason why Evangelicals have been skunked by their opponents: the Evangelicals are in a hurry for the Lord’s return and their opponents are playing, more or less, the long game.

Such it is with liturgy. The fights we have today over Novus Ordo vs. TLM and that dreadful 1979 BCP vs. the rest (and that’s an oversimplification given Anglicanism’s complex structure) have been brewing for a century or more. You can even see that in the much-vaunted 1928 BCP, and the ink wasn’t even dry on the first printing when the “hankering for more” started.

A great deal of that hankering is expressed in this book, Prayer Book Interleaves by Dean William Palmer Ladd, Dean of the Berkeley Divinity School. The book is a posthumous compilation of the Dean’s articles, mostly written in the late 1930’s.

Ladd died 1 July 1941, just after Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union and five months before the U.S. would enter the war. The gathering storm, the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, and of course the spectre of Communism are a background for the work and give it a relevance for our time, since both of these movements–and many others–continue to challenge Christianity here and elsewhere.

So what is Ladd’s solution? Ladd himself was a part of what he and we call the Liturgical Movement, that movement that had its genesis in Roman Catholicism and which rumbled through the system until it burst into full view with Vatican II and the promulgation of the Novus Ordo Missae in 1970. It’s tempting to see the Episcopal Church as a remora on this shark, but Ladd certainly didn’t think so. Although he is aware of the differences in the challenges of each, he is also aware of the commonalities of them as well, although even he admits that the Cranmerian liturgy was, in reality, a first step in addressing the problems of the Roman liturgy.

His central thesis is that the Holy Communion should return as the normal service on Sunday.  He expressed this belief as follows:

Each worshipper shared in the worship of the whole Catholic Church, earthly and heavenly. Brotherhood and loyalty, democracy and equality, were spiritual realities having a super-natural basis. The eucharistic fellowship excluded any distinction between aristocrats and slaves. It was not undermined by snobs and money-grubbers, our fifth column today. (p. 8)

I suggest that the essential on which we should concentrate today is the Holy Eucharist. (p.63)

The practice for the Eucharist to be the service on Sunday is of course normative in Roman Catholicism.  He repeats this sentiment elsewhere, but his idea ignores the following:

  1. The church in his day and ours lacks the vetting process the early church had for admitting people into the Communion.  They even dismissed the catechumens before that part of the service!  I doubt this would go over very well now.
  2. Christianity today lacks the unity of opinion about what the Eucharist basically is, something I pointed out in Bill Clinton’s Eucharistic Theology: It Depends on What “Is” Is.  Ladd tries his best to ignore or minimize this inconvenient truth, and that’s a typically Episcopal approach to a problem: paper over differences with either liturgical niceties or Anglican fudge.  My high school chaplain attempted to do that on this issue and I was totally unconvinced.  Subsequent history (to say nothing of this) has borne out the importance of this problem.
  3. His characterisation of the “snobs and money grubbers” as a “fifth column” denies the reality of the Episcopal Church’s elevated demographics: They’re not a fifth column, they’re front and centre!  This problem would only get worse with the aftermath of World War II, and is something the ACNA needs to watch with C4SO.
  4. He objects to the fact that the Holy Communion’s lectionary readings have none of the Old Testament. Of course, that’s what Morning and Evening Prayer are all about, right? It’s also interesting that, while he was decrying the lack of OT readings for the Holy Communion, the editors of the 1928 BCP’s lectionary were toning down those they thought were in bad taste! The subsequent changes in the lectionary for the RCC, TEC and ACNA speak for themselves.

Some other interesting quotes are as follows:

From thinking of the failure of the Roman Church to cultivate a living liturgical tradition, my mind wandered off to the many ways in which that great communion is a reactionary and obscurantist influence in our modern life. I recalled its hostility to the child-labor amendment, its sinister censorship of the American press and movies, its bloody hand in Spain, its self-seeking political intrigue all over the world. And then in a more Christian mood I recalled the fact that such a repudiation of the gospel is by no means a monopoly of the Roman branch of the Church and that as a matter of fact again and again the Romans have fought for the underdog. How about our own shortcomings-our alliance with a favored social and economic class, our self-indulgent living, our cut-and-dried worship, our snobbishness, our racial intolerance, our neglect of Christian unity, our ineffective missionary effort, our bankrupt Christian education, our indifference to theological learning? Such thoughts were depressing. But suddenly the Easter Alleluia rang out-‘Praise ye the Lord!’ and the Tract -‘The truth of the Lord remaineth forever!’ Then a deacon came down from the altar, knelt before the archiepiscopal throne, and held out a book for the archbishop to kiss. It was the gospel book. That was a reassuring ceremony. Miserable sinners are we all-but still Christians-and in some degree we do pay allegiance to the risen Lord and his gospel. (pp. 59-60)

His position on the Spanish Civil War is curious in view of the fact that his friends at the Maria Laach monastery–a centre of the Liturgical Movement and an inspiration to him–were playing footsies with the Nazis, an alliance that would bear bad fruit in places like Vichy France. I saw the Gospel procession in my “visit” to Bethesda last year, and it really hasn’t made a dent to that church’s formalism or its elevated demographics, with all of the unpleasant consequences he points out.

But what is unsatisfactory in this search for fundamentals is that when we find them they are not necessarily Christian. They underlie religion in general. And the very ideas mentioned above stand out, in fact, in that great revolution which is fundamentally religion and which is so much in all our minds today-Hitlerism. Fellowship? Yes, the fellowship of all Germans as against the world is both more evident and more effective than our Christian fellowship. Sacrifice? What sacrifices have not the German people made in the last ten years, and still are making for the sake of their Reich! Faith? Not the eucharistic faith in the risen Lord and in the power of the Holy Spirit, yet a faith that removes mountains. Sanctification of the material world? That is the meaning of ‘blood and soil.’ What is lacking is the Christian way of life. Hate, revenge, lying, ruthless cruelty, have taken the place of justice, truth, long-suffering, mercy, pity, peace, and love. Belief in God, but rejection of Christ. An altar, but no Christian gospel upon it. (p. 74)

Comparing the enthusiasm of the Nazis to the lack he sees in Christianity is similar to the comparison I made with the Communists, and frankly I didn’t get much of a response. But that leads me to my next quote…

These thoughts have come to me recently as I have been watching the antics of one of those crucifers of the familiar type who parade up the church alley with gauntleted hands, cross pressed against chin and nose, eyes peering into space, body stiffly leaping forward in a sort of goosestep at each beat of the music. I am hopeless of trying to open the eyes of the clergy to the absurdity and vulgarity of this performance, and to the discredit which it must bring on the Church in the eyes of people of good taste and reverent feeling. What can be done? (p. 106)

Had the Third Reich–to say nothing of the Soviets–not given goosestepping such a bad name, that’s exactly what we (youth choir and acolytes alike) would have done, especially when our organist struck up the 1940’s Hymnal’s #385. It definitely had a “Dr. Strangelove” feel to it. OTOH, while he continually decries stepping in time with the music, I have no idea what a reasonable alternative would be.

Such an ideal of worship characterizes many parts of our eucharistic service, notably the dialogue beginning ‘Lift up your hearts,’ which, since the earliest times, has inaugurated the solemn oblation and communion. But other parts of the service have a definitely individualistic character. In the Middle Ages, that ‘period of unexampled liturgical decay,’ as Father Gregory Dix calls it, people began to go to mass to get something out of it for themselves, or for their relatives and friends in purgatory. Our Prayer Book inherited this individualism. Cranmer prided himself that with the new service it would be ‘every man for himself.’ The confession is of that character; it is of individual, not corporate, sins. And when at the climax of the service the worshipper kneels at the altar to receive communion, he is turned back upon himself with the words ‘given for thee,’ ‘preserve thy soul,’ ‘Christ died for thee.’

Today this ‘save your soul’ approach to religion is completely discredited. It should be eliminated from the Eucharist. There should be intercessions, as the rubric allows, on subjects about which the whole congregation is, or ought to be, concerned, such as the parish and the community, missions and social justice. And in the political sphere we should supplement the antiquated petition that God may ‘direct and dispose the hearts of all Christian rulers’; the ‘rulers’ today are mostly infidels, and, even if our Christian President made himself a ‘ruler’ with Almighty God to direct his heart, it would not solve the greatest of our political problems. To omit the confession, as has already been suggested, would be a gain. (p. 110)

The “communal” nature of the Eucharist of the Liturgical Movement aficionado is the greatest weakness of the whole enterprise. He, like so many others, ignores the real lesson of the Wesleyan revival and works under the assumption that, if we renew the liturgy, the people will be renewed. What he cannot understand is that it isn’t an “either/or” proposition but a “both/and” proposition: the renewal of the liturgy and the renewal of the people must go together even if they are not the same, otherwise we do two things: we force people to choose between their eternal destiny and liturgical correctness, or we end up with a people who simply go through a new set of motions. That style of mind has made the last half century or more a difficult road for many of us.

I’d also make another comment about his disparaging comments re our rulers: he says elsewhere that “Only a few Christian rulers like Chiang Kai-Shek and some South American despots are left.” (p. 65) Those are interesting choices for a social justice person like Ladd, to say the least.

He spends a lot of time in reviewing changes for the 1928 BCP that I’m sure those who put together the 1979 BCP took those into consideration. Had he and his contemporaries taken into consideration the realities of the Christian life and not been so obsessed with their own idea the whole Liturgical Movement would have borne better fruit for Anglican and Catholic alike. It’s good, however, to let a proponent of the movement like him speak for himself in Prayer Book Interleaves by Dean William Palmer Ladd; it’s easier to see the strong and weak points of something that has impacted many of us.

Why the elites hate Vaughan Williams

When Marie Hall stepped on to the stage at the Queen’s Hall in London to give the first full performance of a new piece from Ralph Vaughan Williams, few could have imagined that exactly a century later, this apparently unremarkable piece would have turned into a political football. The Lark Ascending; Romance for Violin and…

Why the elites hate Vaughan Williams

John Wesley and the Liturgy

From William Palmer Ladd’s Prayer Book Interleaves:

The Church of England had its Prayer Book, and thus the liturgical way of life was kept alive. But when in the XVIII century, the heyday of the Whig bishops, the easy-going parsons, and the infrequent Eucharists, a prophet arose in the person of John Wesley, the Church knew not the day of its vindication, and literally stoned him. In 1938 many Anglicans, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, joined with Methodists throughout the world in observing the 200th anniversary of Wesley’s ‘Aldersgate Experience.’ That a priest of the Church of England should have had a religious experience was a strange reason for such an elaborate commemoration. And, unfortunately, it identified Wesley with modern Methodist prayer-meetings, whereas he was essentially a Prayer Book churchman, and the embodiment of Anglicanism at its best.

Reared in the churchly atmosphere of his father’s vicarage and of Oxford University, he came to an understanding of sacramental theology by a study of the Fathers, of Jeremy Taylor and other Caroline divines, and of non-juring churchmen like William Law. In his preaching tours throughout England he always attended the services of the parish church. He received communion weekly, and indeed as many as four times each week on the average throughout his entire ministry, so it has been estimated. He urged the duty of constant communion. And his communion services attracted the common people beyond the capacity of the churches to hold them. Few priests in any period of Church history have ever done more to popularize the Holy Communion.

His one lapse from Anglican order-laying his hands on Coke-is to be explained in part by his acceptance of St.Jerome’s teaching of the equality of bishops and presbyters, but chiefly by his intense conviction of the importance of the Holy Communion. It was a desperate step, but he took it only after he had repeatedly failed to persuade the English bishops to provide bishops and sacraments for his American Methodists. Seabury similarly failed. The two were in London at the same time. If they could have met and agreed on a common plan of action. it might have changed the religious destiny of the new world. (pp. 18-19)

The Baptists, Their Doctrine and Their Nasty Politics

Next week the Southern Baptist Convention meets in Nashville. They’re facing a number of serious issues: declining membership, Critical Race Theory, and sex abuse scandals, both opposite-sex and same-sex. They’ve had some high-profile departures from the Baptist universe such as Russell Moore, an enlightening analysis of which is here. The denomination everyone thought “had it all” is in trouble.

People who come out of Apostolic churches always find the Baptist–and Evangelical–idea rather strange. They attribute this to “lack of discipleship” and “lack of community.” Neither of these is true; in some ways, the Baptists can make a more effective case against Anglicans and Roman Catholics than can be done the other way. The reason why Baptist and Evangelical churches are the way they are stem from one simple thing: their idea of unconditional perseverance, or “once saved always saved.” When coupled with a generally Arminian view of election, the results look good on the surface but eventually kick back, and that’s what we’re seeing now.

For me this is personal: I had to get the Baptist thing “out of my system” before moving forward. I always tell people that 2.5 years at FBC was the longest 2.5 years I’ve spent anywhere. I hope this will be enlightening for people who don’t understand how this style of mind plays out.

To do this I’ll take a leaf from the Landmark world, in the form of a debate. I feature the The McPherson-Bogard Debate elsewhere, but this is the Garner-Smith Debate. It took place in Gainesville, FL in May 1974 between Albert Garner, a well-known Missionary Baptist preacher, and James Tilden (J.T.) Smith, one from the Church of Christ. The two topics under consideration are as follows:

  1. Baptismal Regeneration; and
  2. Unconditional Eternal Security

It may surprise Apostolic types that the Church of Christ, so far away in many ways from their idea, supports baptismal regeneration, but in a way they do. The Baptists of course are very strong supporters of eternal security, irrespective of which form of election they pick.

By the time of the Garner-Smith debate projected visuals were reasonably common, in the form of the infamous “view graphs.” Some (like these) look primitive now, although they’re not much better than some of the ones I saw at Texas Instruments. The first one I want to put up is from Smith, showing his idea of what the Baptists believe about salvation (and their idea that baptism isn’t necessary for that.)

Smith doesn’t miss a chance to take a pot shot at groups neither one of them likes (Roman Catholics, Methodists, etc.) But basically he’s spot on, especially with the “straight shot” part of the diagram. Although it’s part of the baptismal regeneration part of the debate, his characterization of salvation as “cannot be lost–unconditionally secure–idolatry and murder not make soul in danger” is basically either what the Baptists believe or the logical conclusion of that belief.

That concept is a game changer for the life of the church. The people I normally associated with being free from moral constraint were the Communists, who deny the existence of a non-material reality. But here we are. And Garner never responded to this. This basically turns the life of the church into a numbers game; once you’ve got them saved, that’s it.

It’s true that the Baptists have a thorough program for follow-up, especially in their Sunday School system and other types of training. But these are not for salvation: these are for giving believers a credible witness in the world. It’s the key counterweight to their idea of perseverance, and I’ve known many Baptists who are faithful to that. (The only thing I never quite grasped was why Baptists, when they prayed, frequently asked God to forgive their sins: my impulse was to ask them “Why?”)

But as anyone who has done church work knows, the higher up you go in the system the fewer contacts with people outside the church–and by extension the lost–you have. That decreases the need to maintain a witness, especially outside of the realm of publicity. In turn this leads to the viciousness of Baptist politics, as was on display in Paige Patterson’s ouster. It’s little wonder under these circumstances that Russell Moore chose the carefully planned exit he did: he knew that an ecclesiastical piranha tank awaited him if he didn’t, and then he would be ruined for sure.

This leads to the next observation for those institutions that welcome Moore and other refugees from the Baptist world: you need to force them to do “pew time” until they free themselves from their Baptistic idea of eternal security. That’s easier said than done. My Baptistic mother, who put me through the Episcopal system of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, the Comfortable Words, and being characterised as a miserable offender every Morning Prayer, was shocked years later to discover that I didn’t believe in Baptistic eternal security. She said she “hoped” I would come around to it! Raise up a child in the way he should go…

Which leads to another of J.T. Smith’s graphics, at the right.

All of this should show that the Baptist’s ways are certainly unequal, in this regard at least. They’ve produced a successful system which has transformed a region, but they took a slick shortcut to do it. That slick shortcut has affected the American Evangelical world in ways that it does not understand, even in those groups that don’t formally share its eternally secure theology. It’s the real source of a great deal of “easy believism” that gets attacked by people like Robin Jordan.

The Baptists need to wake up to the dilemma they’ve created. If they don’t, their love of evangelism won’t come to much: the eternities they profess to care about won’t be changed, and then they won’t be the only ones in trouble.

Giving Paige Patterson the Boot Was Messier Than You Thought

The Baptists are at it again:

Southwestern’s dispatch in the annual Book of Reports, which presents information for messengers attending the denomination’s upcoming annual meeting, alleges Patterson misappropriated “confidential donor information” and took seminary property after his 2018 termination over allegations of mishandling sexual abuse.

The report comes three months after the seminary settled a lawsuit against a foundation that shifted millions in funding following Patterson’s departure.

I find this amazing; given the way Patterson was booted (he was out of the country when it happened) if he somehow stole or misappropriated seminary property, it was the seminary who wasn’t paying attention.  At the time I noted the following:

But the way the Board reversed its previous decision and unceremoniously dumped him is unfortunately typical of the way Southern Baptists handle situations like this. In their system you’re either highly favoured or cast into outer darkness, there’s no middle ground…I think much of that has to do with their defective combination of Arminian election and Calvinistic perseverance.  Once you’ve made your decision for Christ and then mess up, the only explanation left is that you weren’t saved to start with.  So how can anything subsequent to that be trusted?  Out with you.

In addition to this, the way the seminary booted Patterson is consistent with current corporate practice.  “Back in the day” you had some time to wrap up your business, clean out your office and leave.  Now it’s standard to change the locks on your office (and your computer) and force you to fight the institution for your own stuff.  The fact that Patterson was in Germany was all the better in the eyes of the seminary.

Had the seminary simply appointed a representative to go through the whole thing with Patterson, it would have been better.  But that’s not the corporate way these days, and it’s not the Baptist way either.