Irenaeus and the Origin of Icons

St. Irenaeus discusses the Gnostic leader Carpocrates and his followers, and in so doing, hints at the origin of icons. He says of these heretics:

They style themselves Gnostics. They also possess images, some of them painted, and others formed from different kinds of material; while they maintain that a likeness of Christ was made by Pilate at that time when Jesus lived among them. They crown these images, and set them up along with the images of the philosophers of the world that is to say, with the images of Pythagoras, and Plato, and Aristotle, and the rest. They have also other modes of honoring these images, after the same manner of the Gentiles.

From Against Heresies, I.25.6

Sanctification of the Water in the 1662 BCP

The baptismal liturgy of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer makes an addition that contrasts with the previous theology of Cranmer and Bucer. That addition is the consecration of the baptismal water:

sanctify this Water to the mystical washing away of sin; and grant that this Child, now to be baptized therein, may receive the fulness of thy grace, and ever remain in the number of thy faithful and elect children; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The original Prayer Books had no indication of the Epiclesis in Communion or the setting aside of the water during Baptism, the revision added the sanctification of the water due to the influence of Bishop John Cosin. Cosin seems to have been a high-church Arminian and friend of Laud and Charles I. Cosin was a strong Protestant, while exiled to France he befriended the Hugenots and attended the reformed church at Charenton (see p. 265 of this).  However, he was engaged against the Puritans and Calvinism generally while in England.

The following page from here shows Cosin’s commentary on the BCP at the section on baptism, where he remarks about the water:

Note that Bucer had a problem with this consecration of the water in his review of the BCP to Cranmer [source]:

And here is a historical note on the change:


All of this indicates that this was a change away from a more Reformational understanding of the sacrament of Baptism. I note also that Toon’s blue “An Anglican Prayer Book” maintains this language.



Plantinga is an Anglican

It was pointed out elsewhere that Theodore (not Cornelius as I mistakenly said earlier) Plantinga is now an Anglican. Witness:

The Canterbury Trail

Some of the reformationals, reacting against these developments began to cast a longing eye at the Canterbury Trail, as Robert Webber has called it. But when they departed for Eastern Orthodox or Roman Catholic or Anglican churches (called Episcopalian in the USA), they were not taking a step that can be hailed as reformational in the classic sense. Of course there are also reformationals who simply started out as Anglicans and were never enticed into joining a Reformed church, such as Craig Bartholomew.

Reformationals eyeing the Canterbury Trail could appeal to Abraham Kuyper for a degree of understanding, for in his book on worship Kuyper had written that the “English church” was much more developed in liturgical respects (liturgisch veel fijner ontwikkeld). And there was nothing particularly original about the decision of some of the reformationals to choose the Canterbury Trail; they could hardly congratulate themselves for being on the cutting edge. Rather, what they were doing was going back; in other words, they were embracing worship practices and sacramental emphases and forms of church governance which had been rejected by their ecclesiastical forefathers in centuries past.

It was as though the middle had fallen away. Many people had grown to love the “low-church” tendency that was more and more taking over the Reformed and Presbyterian churches. Gordon Spykman (1926-93) observed that while Lutherans were toning down their sacramental emphasis by thinking more like Calvinists, the Calvinists were moving away from their traditional position and beginning to sound more and more like the Zwinglians, who had advanced the “memorial feast” view of the eucharist during the early days of the Reformation. But a minority abhorred these developments and began to yearn for sacrament and liturgy and tradition. Some discovered the celebrated Anglican Book of Common Prayer and were drawn into the Anglican communion, while others remained closet Anglicans.

I was among those who were drawn to the Book of Common Prayer: early in the new millennium I turned Anglican. The aftermath of the worship wars within the Christian Reformed denomination were a major factor in my decision, as was the coldness toward the 1944 problem and toward the many Canadian Reformed people living among us that I had experienced especially during my days of ecumenical endeavor in the early 1990s (see my remarks above). There was, in addition, a third, very personal factor in my decision, which I will not discuss here.


Averroes on Types of Believers

Averroes described three types of believers. He is of course speaking of Muslims, but I wonder if the description wouldn’t apply to Christians as well? David Knowles summarizes the views of Averroes as follows:

He himself distinguished three classes of believers. There is the ordinary, uncultured man, who is only capable of, and is satisfied by, authoritative and emotional arguments: for him there is the bare and literal word of revelation. Next, there is the moderately educated man, the dialectician and theologian, who is satisfied with probable or persuasive arguments. Finally, there is the rare and highly intelligent man, the philosopher, who needs absolute demonstration.


Aristotle Again

Rushdoony points out that pernicious affect that Aristotle has on Western theology (although he mistakenly attributes his influence to ‘scholasticism’ when in fact he had been there all along):

When Scholasticism reintroduced Aristotle’s humanism into Western history, the consequence was the decline of orthodox Christianity and its trinitarian answer to the problem of the one and the many and universals. The universals of Scholasticism became the Hellenic ideas or forms, and the Trinity itself was reevaluated in terms of these forms to become substance (the Father), structure (the Son), and process (the Spirit), so that the Trinity became simply the common being of the universe analyzed into its aspects. The universals thus had no small immanence, and the struggle of medieval Europe came increasingly to be a contest between claimants to the title of concrete universal, i.e., the immanent expression of ultimate order. Church, state, and university alike claimed supremacy and sovereignty, as did the anarchic and ultimate individual of such groups as the Adamites and other movements of the day. The mystics also claimed the same realization of the universal in their experience.

Averroes on Aristotle

Islam fell completely under the sway of Aristotelian and neo-Platonic thought. Listen to the incredible praise that Averroes had for Aristotle:

I consider that that man (Aristotle) was a rule and exemplar which nature devised to show the final perfection of man…the teaching of Aristotle is the supreme truth, because his mind was the final expression of the human mind. Wherefore it has been well said that he was created and given to us by divine providence that we might know all there is to be known. Let us praise God, who set this man apart from all others in perfection, and made him approach very near to the highest dignity humanity can attain.

Translating Aristotle

David Knowles writes:

Thus the introduction of the whole canon of Aristotle to the West was a process continuing over a hundred years…the ethical and political and literary treatises presented Europe with a philosopher who regarded human life from a purely naturalistic, this-world point of view. Taken as a whole the translations of Aristotle gave Western thinkers, for the first time, matter on which to construct a full and mature system, but the atmosphere, the presuppositions of this great body of thought were not medieval and Christian, but ancient Greek and non-religious, not to say rationalistic in character.

The ongoing use of Aristotle in Christendom coupled with the loss of many of his works led to a situation where their rediscovery upset the apple cart of systematic theology. The fascination with and recovery of ancient Greek and Roman culture was one impetus away from the Church and towards secularism. Something to think about for proponents of Classical education.

The Regulative Principle Redefined

I finished up Leithart’s From Silence to Song yesterday and found his writing illuminating as always. He discusses the Reformed “Regulative Principle” and recasts it in a very different light (a much better one). The Regulative Principle is usually held to mean that anything God hasn’t expressly commanded in worship is forbidden, you’ll often see it trumpeted in modern times by nuts like the Still Waters Revival folks who hold to no instruments in music and exclusive Psalmody.

Leithart contrasts this with the canonical example of David’s instructions for Temple and Tabernacle worship. He writes:

A strict regulativist living at the time of David would syllogize thus:

Major premise: Whatever is not commanded is forbidden.

Minor premise: Singing is not commanded in the Levitical Law.

Conclusion: Therefore, singing in worship is forbidden.

David appears to have reasoned by analogy:

Major premise: The Law governs worship.

Minor premise #1: The Law prescribes that trumpets be played over the public ascensions, in public worship.

Minor premise #2: The trumpet is a musical instrument.

Conclusion: Analogously, song and other music are a legitimate part of worship.

In place of a “regulation-by-explicit command” principle, David operated according to a “regulation-by-analogy” principle.

He qualifies this by showing that not all analogies are valid – pigs can’t be offered in sacrifice because cows are, so Scripture controls the application. Once again, Leithart’s writings are some of the best theological insights you can find today on a host of subjects.


Still Waters Revival Books

From Silence to Song

SGM Makes it to the Washington Post

The Post has been looking around for a couple weeks and has put out a fairly even-handed article for the general public here. Excerpt:

The Web is playing a powerful role in Mahaney’s woes even as his movement owes much of its popularity to it. His wife and three daughters co-write a chatty, hipster-looking blog about“biblical womanhood,” and Harris is something of a rock star in conservative evangelical circles for his book about dating and the importance of traditional courtship.

What happens next is unclear. Sovereign Grace officials emphasize they are deep into a period of spiritual reflection and management nit-picking. They clarified that he remains on staff. He joined with some other Sovereign Grace pastors at a retreat this summer, and some experts say he is too popular a figure in a thriving movement to disappear over the controversy.

Douglas Jones on Ecumenism

From here.

Rationalism assumes that goodness flows from getting our ideas in order, but that seems to get the biblical reality reversed. Intellectual agreement seems to be a symptom of doing goodness and beauty. If each communion led first with doing the good and the beautiful instead of just thinking about it (my tradition), then the intellectual ecumenism would seem to flow much more easily. Intellectual agreement assumes a context of trust and good will. It would seem more profitable for each communion to expend its efforts in the short term (meaning over the next two centuries) showing the ugliness of modernity, individualism, egalitarianism, unitarianism by contrast with our mature, healthy Christian communities (“Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people” [Deut. 4:6]). If we were all better at provoking the non-Christian world to jealousy for Triune goodness and beauty, then we would have much less problem using the sort of model proposed to unite more intellectually. But we don’t want to assume a thin rationalism to fight Rationalism. That’s playing by their rules.