Are Anglican Ministers Successors to the Apostles?

Back in December I published a post in response to one Rev. Chris Findley on Dodging the Important Questions on Priests and the Holy Communion.  Unsurprisingly there was no response.  Who knows, Rev. Findley might still be stuck in Murfreesboro’s traffic, which is experiencing serious spillover from Nashville.  In any case, in that post I touched on an unspoken assumption in Findley’s piece: that, if we say (as he does) that “the charge of conducting the sacraments is an apostolic charge for the care of the Church,” we’re saying that those to whom it is charged are successors to the Apostles.

Is that really so?  The Roman Catholics have denied this, although I think their basis for doing so is more the result of how the Church of England came into existence and less about their stated reasons of defective transmission.  The opinion of those on the other side of the Channel has been different.  John Jewel, for example, opines as follows:

“For whereas some use to make so great a vaunt, that the Pope is only Peter’s successor, as though thereby he carried the Holy Ghost in his bosom, and cannot err, this is but a matter of nothing, and a very trifling tale. God’s grace is promised to a good mind, and to one that feareth God, not unto sees and successions. “Riches,” saith Hierom, “may make a bishop to be of more might than the rest: but all the bishops,” whosoever they be, “are the successors of the Apostles.” If so be the place and consecrating only be sufficient, why then Manasses succeeded David, and Caiaphas succeeded Aaron. And it hath been often seen, that an idol hath stand in the temple of God. In old time Archidamus the Lacedaemonian boasted much of himself, how he came of the blood of Hercules.” Jewel, Apology for the Church of England, VI

I thought that this opinion (and the authority) were impeccable, but when I set this forth during controversy my disputant, from The State to the North, thought otherwise.  Is there a way out of this dilemma?

The best way to resolve this is to consider what it really means to succeed the Apostles, and that leads to consider what the main task of those successors really is.  The main task of the Apostles’ successors is to preserve and uphold the apostolic tradition, the paradosis, as they have received it.  In the early years of the Church that task was especially crucial because the canon of the New Testament had not congealed as we know it now: the only Scriptures they had to go on at the start was the Old Testament.  That congealing more sharply defines the apostolic tradition, and by extension simplifies its transmission.  If there’s one thing Reformed Anglicans would like to see, it’s a more Scriptural view in the church.  That’s in line with this “main thing.”

Opposed to this is the Roman Catholic concept that the Apostles’ successors’ main task is to act as Christ’s representatives on earth and dispense the sacraments, and by extension grace.  That puts “binding and loosing” at the front of the Church’s agenda when, in light of Our Lord’s emphasis on servant leadership, it should be well down the list.  If we separate the whole concept of apostolic succession from the “baggage” that’s been attached to it, we can see things in a new light.

And so we come to the serious question: what happens when (and after all these centuries “when” is appropriate) the apostles’ successors “sell the pass” on the apostolic tradition?  Churches which have that succession complain about the ones that don’t, but the reality is that had the apostles’ successors stuck to their original task more faithfully, we wouldn’t have many of these breakaway groups.  (Some are so far removed from the trunk that they can’t even be described as breakaway.)  That’s the core issue facing Catholic “trads” right at the moment, but it’s been going on for a long time.

Finally, there are many things which divide the Anglican/Episcopal world these days, but one of them that doesn’t get much press is basic ecclesiology.  What is the church all about?  What part of it are we in?  Coming to some kind of common understanding on this would go a long way to solving the many other problems out there, but don’t hold your breath for a solution any time soon.

Is the “Classic” Concept of Original Sin Based on a Mistranslation?

An intriguing suggestion from J.N.D. Kelly’s Early Christian Doctrines.  First, concerning Ambrosiaster’s influential Commentary on Romans:

Ambrosiaster’s teaching is particularly note­worthy because it relies on an exegesis of Rom. 5, 12 which, though mistaken and based on a false reading, was to become the pivot of the doctrine of original sin. In the Greek St. Paul’s text runs, ‘…so death passed to all men inasmuch as (εφ ω) all sinned’; but the Old Latin version which Ambrosiaster used had the faulty translation ‘…in whom (in quo) all sinned’. Hence we find him  commenting, ‘”In whom”, that is, in Adam, “all sinned.” He said, “In whom”, in the masculine, although speaking about the woman, because his reference was to the race, not the sex. It is therefore plain that all men sinned in Adam as in a lump (quasi in massa). For Adam himself was corrupted by sin, and all whom he begat were born under sin. Thus we are all sinners from him, since we all derive from him.’ (p. 354, quote from Ambrosiaster’s Commentary on Romans, 5,12)

And Augustine:

So Augustine has no doubt of the reality of original sin. Genesis apart, he finds Scriptural proof of it in Ps. 51, Job and Eph. 2, 3, but above all in Rom. 5, 12 (where, like Ambrosi­aster, he reads ‘in whom’) and John 3, 3-5. The Church’s tradition, too, he is satisfied, is unanimously in favour of it, and he marshals an array of patristic evidence to convince Julian of Eclanum of this. The practice of baptizing infants with exorcisms and a solemn renunciation of the Devil was in his eyes proof positive that even they were infected with sin. Finally, the general wretchedness of man’s lot and his enslavement to his desires seemed to clinch the matter. Like others before him, he believed that the taint was propagated from parent to child by the physical act of generation, or rather as the result of the carnal excitement which accompanied it and was present, he noticed, in the sexual intercourse even of baptized persons. As we have seen, Augustine was divided in mind between the traducianist and various forms of the creationist theory of the soul’s origin. If the former is right, original sin passes to us directly from our parents; if the latter, the freshly created soul becomes soiled as it enters the body. (p. 363)

There are a couple of things that need to be noted about this.

First, although Kelly places the mistranslation with the Old Latin version, the Vulgate is no different.  That in part is because the Vulgate translation of the New Testament isn’t really a fresh translation (unlike the Old Testament, where Jerome did so from the original Hebrew) but a revision of the Old Latin.

Second, there’s no doubt that the Church Fathers all taught that the Fall was a disaster and left us in a sinfully impaired state.  The issue here is how that disaster has been propagated.  Ambrosiaster and Augustine were of the idea that Adam’s sin was directly passed from parent to child, based on the reading from the Old Latin.  (Ambrosiaster’s expansion into “gender-neutral” territory is an interesting aspect of his teaching.)  That has influenced many things in Christianity, from the Roman Catholic doctrine of Limbo to the insistence that infants be baptised.

As always, Bossuet has a full exposition of this idea, which you can find here.

Jesus Our Mediator

So Jesus, who is our God, is at the same time our mediator, our almighty intercessor, to whom God does not refuse anything, and there is no other name by which we should be saved. Let us put our trust in Jesus, who is God and mediator together and, even greater and above Moses, as Moses is only God to send temporary wounds, and he is a mediator only to divert them; but Jesus passes by doing good, and healing all the sick. He deploys his power only to show his kindness; and the plagues which he diverts from us are the plagues of the spirit. Let us put ourselves in his salutary hands; he does not ask anything else, except that we let him do it, from then on he will save us, and salvation is his work.

From Bossuet’s Elevations on the Mysteries.

The Intellectual Shell Game of Critical Race Theory in the Anglican/Episcopal World

Matt Kennedy’s thoughtful piece on critical race theory lays out many things very succinctly.  My purpose here is to take a look at this from another point of view.  The way Matt links current critical race theory with the class theory of Marxism connects many dots, dots which have driven many of my life decisions, especially regarding choice of church.

Let’s start with the Marxism.  Marxism teaches class warfare, and that when the proletariat achieves their revolutionary destiny we will have their dictatorship, equality, and the end of the state.  (My time in both Russia and China showed that the last is a mirage.)  In the meanwhile the aristocrats and the bourgeoisie are the exploiters of the proletariat’s surplus value, and are thus evil and worthy of overthrow.  (My time in especially Russia showed me that an economic system that doesn’t produce surplus value runs down, as theirs did.)

Before all of this informative travel, there was life in Palm Beach and the Episcopal Church.  I looked around me and realized two things.  The first is that the people around me were, in Marxist terms (and remember that the Marxists had nuclear weapons pointed at us) part of the problem.  The second is that Our Lord’s solution to this problem was for the rich young ruler to sell all and follow him.

The Episcopal Church’s answer to all of this fell seriously flat.  First, I was confronted with the “do-gooder approach” by my Episcopal prep school chaplain, which seemed inadequate.  Second, the Episcopal Church was in the throes of 1960’s social justice, where the church and its parishioners were exhorted to get into political action to change things.  Neither of these seemed much a response to either Marx or Jesus; the political action in particular was an attempt to get someone else (in this case the state) to do the work that Our Lord called us to do.  The Episcopalians remained at the “top of the heap,” which meant that the Marxist challenge went unanswered.  All of this was part but not all of the reason why I left.

Fast forward to the days of critical race theory.  Critical race theory does for Marx what Marx did for Hegel; it turns the older concept on its head.  Marx was all about economics.  Critical race theory is first an American attempt to create an oppression dialectic without having to deal with the reality of economic and class differences.  That’s because Americans have a serious blind spot to both and are too ashamed to admit that they’re on the wrong side of the divide (and it doesn’t matter which side you’re on.)

In any case, the Anglican/Episcopal world in North America is just about as unprepared to deal with critical race theory now as it was with social justice fifty years ago.  That’s because the Episcopal Church (and the ACNA isn’t much better) are overwhelmingly white, in TEC’s case more so than the Southern Baptists.  It’s really stupid to bring up “white privilege” in churches with the ethnic makeup that most Anglican/Episcopal churches in this country have.  If you want to deal with your privilege, whether it be racial, social or economic, you need to first join up with people where your privilege doesn’t mean as much.  That doesn’t happen very often.

All of this duplicity has convinced me that critical race theory is a shell game.  Like past and present social justice, it gives its adherents an opportunity to virtue signal/feel better about themselves without significantly disturbing the reality they’re in, a reality about which they’re seriously guilty.  Just because people virtue signal about something doesn’t mean they’re serious: just look at the college admissions scandal we just went through.  That too was an attempt by what we used to call the “beautiful people” to perpetuate their own white privilege by getting their unqualified children into elite institutions.

We need to stop playing games with ourselves on this subject.  The change we really need comes from God through Jesus Christ.  Once that’s really happened we become a new race with a new blood line; our world and the way we see it and deal with it becomes different.  Anything else is a shell game which either seeks to deflect attention away from ourselves and to assuage our guilt for what we are.  We don’t need guilt reduction: we need redemption and forgiveness.

Francis Chan Bails on Bill Clinton’s Eucharistic Theology

As you see here:

“Bill Clinton’s Eucharistic Theology” is my catty description of Zwinglian theology, which posits that the Holy Communion is a mere symbol.  As I noted in my piece entitled Bill Clinton’s Eucharistic Theology: It Depends Upon What Is Is:

Until the Reformation Christianity uniformly confessed that, when Our Lord said “is” he meant “is”, up to and including the concept of transubstantiation, which Aquinas details in the Summa.

With the breakage of the Reformers we start seeing a variety of explanations of how this “is”, something that Bossuet has more fun than a human being ought to have in his History of the Variations of the Protestant Churches.  But the biggest variation, one that started with Huldreich Zwingli, basically stated that “is isn’t”; that it’s just bread from start to finish and that the Lord’s Supper is purely symbolic.  That “theology” made its way into many Evangelical churches, including the Southern Baptist Convention.

Welcome, Francis Chan.

Guatemala, Then and Now — Chet Aero Marine

One of the things I’ve learned in the many years I’ve worked on this site is that my family has a habit of following in the wake of its ancestors, even if the followers were reluctant to admit it. Our trips to the Bahamas were in the wake of Chet’s SPA trips; our moving to […]

via Guatemala, Then and Now — Chet Aero Marine

John Eric Booth-Clibborn: The Assemblies of God Missionary Who Gave His Life for Burkina Faso — Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center

This Week in AG History — January 2, 1926 By Darrin J. Rodgers Originally published on AG News, 2 January 2019 John Eric Booth-Clibborn, a 29-year-old Assemblies of God missionary, laid down his life in the French West African colony of Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso) on July 8, 1924. He died from dysentery and […]

via John Eric Booth-Clibborn: The Assemblies of God Missionary Who Gave His Life for Burkina Faso — Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center

On the Prayer Book as Constitution — Ad Orientem

The prayer book controversies, however, are an illustration of one of the banes of the English speaking world: debating substantive issues by arguing over documents. Today in the U.S. we debate many issues in our society, not on their merits, but by their constitutionality. The basic problem with the newer prayer book is that many […]

via On the Prayer Book as Constitution — Ad Orientem