Jeremy Taylor on Canon Law

After savaging the idea that councils are infallible for several pages, Bishop Taylor discussed canon law:

For 1) the popes of Rome have made innumerable decrees in the Decretum, Decretals, Bulls, Taxes, Constitutions, Clementines, and Extravagants. 2) They, as Albericus de Rosate, a great canonist, affirms, sometimes exalt their constitutions, and sometimes abase them, according to the times. And yet 3) all of them are verified and imposed under the same sanction by the council of Trent, {Session xxv. c. 20. [tom. x. col. 189]} all I say which were ever made in favor of ecclesiastical persons and the liberties of the church, which are indeed the greater part of all after Gratian’s decree; witness the Decretals of Gregory the ninth, Boniface the eight, the Collectio diversarum constitutionum et literarum Romanorum pontificum, and the Decretal epistles of the Roman bishops in three volumes, besides the Ecloga bullarum et motuum propriorum. All this is not only an intolerable burden to the christian churches, but a snare to consciences, and no man can tell by all this that is before him, whether he deserved love or hatred, whether he be in the state of mortal sin, of damnation, or salvation. But this is no new thing: more than this was decreed in the ancient canon law itself. Sic omnes apostolicæ sedis sanctiones accipiendæ sunt tanquam ipsius divini Petri voce firmatæ. And again, Ab omnibus quicquid statuit, quicquid ordinat, perpetuo et irrefragibiliter observandum est, ‘ all men must at all times with all submission observe all things whatsoever are decreed or ordained by the Roman church.’ Nay, licet vix ferendum, ‘although’ what that holy see imposes be as yet ‘scarce tolerable,’ yet let us bear it, and with holy devotion suffer it, says the canon ‘In memoriam.’ And that all this might indeed be an intolerable yoke, the canon ‘Nulli fas est’ adds the pope’s curse and final threatenings; Sit ergo ruinæ suæ dolore prostratus, quisquis apostolicis voluerit contraire decretis; and every one that obeys not the apostolical decrees is majoris excommunicationis dejectione abjiciendus: the canon is directed particularly against the clergy. And the gloss upon this canon affirms, that he who denies the pope’s power of making canons (viz., to oblige the church) is a heretic. Now considering that the Decree of Gratian is Concordantia discordantiarum, a heap or bundle of contrary opinions, doctrines and rules; and they agree no otherwise than a hyena and a dog catched in the same snare, or put into a bag; and that the decretals and extravagants are in very great parts of them nothing but boxes of tyranny and error, usurpation and superstition; only that upon those boxes they write ecclesia catholica, and that all these are commanded to be believed and observed respectively; and all gainsayers to be cursed and excommunicated; and that the twentieth part of them is not known to the christian world, and some are rejected, and some never accepted, and some slighted into desuetude, and some thrown off as being a load too heavy, and yet that there is no rule to discern these things; it must follow that matters of faith determined and recorded in the canon law, and the laws of manners there established, and the matter of salvation and damnation consequent to the observation or not observation of them, must needs be infinitely uncertain, and no man can from their grounds know what shall become of him.

Jeremy Taylor on Church Councils

In The Whole Works of Jeremy Taylor, Volume VI, “Real Presence of Christ in the Sacrament, Dissuasive from Popery, etc.”, Taylor discusses church councils in an extensive fashion. He says in part:

There are divers general council that though they were such, yet they are rejected by almost all the christian world. It ought not to be said that these are not general councils because they were conventions of heretical persons, for if a council can consist of heretical persons (as by this instance it appears it may) then a general council is no sure rule or ground of faith. And all those councils which Bellarmine calls ‘reprobate’ are so many proofs of this. For whatever can be said against the council of Ariminum; yet they cannot say but it consisted of DC. bishops, and therefore it was as general as any ever was before it; but the faults that are found with it prove more; first, that a general council binds not till it be accepted by the churches, and therefore that all its authority depends on them, and they do not depend upon it; and secondly, that there are some general councils which are so far from being infallible, that they are directly false, schismatical, and heretical. And if when the churches are divided in a question, and the communion, like the question, is in flux and reflux; when one side prevails greatly, they get a general council on their side, and prevail by it; but lose as much when the other side play the same game in the day of their advantages. And it will be to no purpose to tell me of any collateral advantages that this council hath more than another council; for though I believe so, yet others do not, and their council is as much a general council to them as our council it to us. And therefore, if general councils are the rule and law of faith in those things they determine, then all that is to be considered in this affair, is whether they be general councils. Whether they say true or no, is not now the question, but is to be determined by this, viz., whether are they general councils or no; for relying upon their authority for the truth, if they be satisfied that they are general councils, that they speak and determine truth will be consequent and allowed. Now then if this be the question, then since divers general councils are reprobated, the consequent is that although they be general councils, yet they may be reproved. And if a catholic producing the Nicene council be met by an Arian producing the council of Ariminum, which was far more numerous; here are

—aquilis aquilæ et pila minantia pilis; [“of eagles matched and javelins threatening javelins.” From Lucan’s Civil War, Book One, 7]

but who shall prevail? If a general council be the rule and guide, they will both prevail; that is, neither. And it ought not to be said by the catholic, ‘Yea, but our council determined for the truth, but yours for error,’ for the Arian will say so too. But whether they do or no, yet it is plain that they may both say so: and if they do, then we do not find the truth out by the conduct and decision of a general council; but we approve this general, because upon other accounts we believe that what is there defined is true…Both sides pretend to general councils: that which both equally pretend to, will help neither; therefore let us go to scripture.

Richard Hooker and the “Three Legged Stool”

Benjamin Guyer points out that the “three legged stool” of Scripture, tradition and reason often attributed to Richard Hooker is not accurate:

First, he notes that Hooker was a Thomist in his views on Scripture and reason.  The relationship between these is the same as that between grace and nature: the former perfects the latter.  Hence Hooker’s point that “the principal intent of Scripture is to deliver the laws of duties supernatural.”[[Hooker, Laws, I.12.2]]  Reason cannot attain to what Hooker calls “a more divine perfection” without the revelation mediated through Scripture.[[Hooker, Laws, I.11.4]]  Under the tutelage of divine truth, human reason does not stand alone but is instead corrected and enabled to pursue what is right and good for all.  Hooker writes, “the laws of well doing are the dictates of right reason.”[[Hooker, Laws, I.7.4]]  Hooker locates authority not in reason as such, but in right reason.  Second, and as Neelands puts it, Hooker looked upon tradition as a Roman Catholic idea that was “merely human” and inferior to Scripture and reason.[[Neelands, “Hooker on Scripture, Reason, and ‘Tradition’,” 89]]  Ergo, even if Hooker had argued for a “three-legged stool” – and Neelands is clear that Hooker did not – there would be no reason why any of us would be bound to accord independent authority to tradition, given Hooker’s own views on the primacy of Scripture and right reason.  Furthermore, if Neelands is correct that the image of the “three-legged stool” is first found in Francis Paget’s 1899 Introduction to the Fifth Book, we cannot claim that this metaphor represents the Anglican tradition.  Other historians agree with Neelands that the “three-legged stool” is a misrepresentation of Hooker’s theology.[[Nigel Voak, Richard Hooker and Reformed Theology: A Study of Reason, Will, and Grace (Oxford University Press, 2003), 251 – 265; W. J. Torrance Kirby,Richard Hooker: Reformer and Platonist (Ashgate, 2005), 1 – 28]]  Why then use it?

Harrison and God

A timely article (for me) has appeared on the subject of George Harrison and his god, a subject I have been looking into. An excerpt:

“He had two personalities,” Ringo says. “One was this bag of [prayer] beads, the other was this big bag of anger.” Yoko Ono seconds that emotion: “He had two aspects,” she says. “Sometimes he was very nice. Sometimes he was [long pause] too honest.” Paul McCartney, coy as ever, says, “He was my mate, so I can’t say too much. But he was a guy, a red-blooded guy, and he liked what guys like.”

Nudge, nudge, wink, wink. Say no more.

You have to read the tell-alls, such as the memoir of his first wife Pattie, to get the details about Bad George and his heroic capacity for cocaine, brandy, and adultery. The combination resulted in, among other things, the spectacularly gruesome scene he made in 1973 at a dinner party at Ringo’s house. The party went sour when George stood up to announce that he was sleeping with Ringo’s wife and planned to run away with her. (In the event, he quickly moved on from Mrs. Starr.) Just another potluck with the Starrs and the Harrisons.

As a pastor of mine used to say, idolatrous gods can do nothing for you, but they ask nothing of you.

Some Good Posts

Mark has another great post up about ten things a church can do to save the world. They include things like singing the Psalms, praying the Psalms and teaching the Bible like God really meant what he said.

Barlow has a cool post on intinction, a practice that really should end.

Kirby Olson has a post up about a conference he attended. I like how his posts are written almost like short stories.

How about John Jewel on the Mass?

Descriptive and Prescriptive Anglicanism

You may be familiar with the two different approaches to grammar known as descriptive and prescriptive grammar. The Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language defines these approaches as follows:

A descriptive grammar is an account of a language that seeks to describe how it is used objectively, accurately, systematically, and comprehensively. A prescriptive grammar is an account of a language that sets out rules (prescriptions) for how it should be used and for what should not be used (proscriptions), based on norms derived from a particular model of grammar. (p 262-63)

A way to illustrate this is that a descriptivist would include “aint” in the dictionary because it is a word that people say, while a prescriptivist would not include it because it is a vulgar word, or a neologism and so should not be included.

I think the same schools of thought can be helpfully applied to the term “Anglicanism” today. Just what does it mean to be Anglican? If we use the descriptivist approach, we come up with an answer so broad as to cease being useful. You can be homosexual, bow to man-made objects, pray to Mary and the saints, be a conservative evangelical, be an Arminian or Calvinist, be charismatic or cessationist, and on and on. Archbishop Orombi attempted a summary a few years ago (here). There really aren’t many boundaries at all, everyone claims a right to the title and most have at least some historical precedent for their position.

If we turn to prescriptivist approach, I think we can fairly establish the parameters by looking at the two foundings of Anglicanism as something unique – the first under Henry VIII and the second under Elizabeth, the Virgin Queen. We could look at the formularies of the Church, the substance of the Book of Common Prayer, the Book of Homilies, the writings of the early Bishops and clergy, and so on. Although there will not be complete unity from this body of literature, I believe that there is enough substance to establish a firm baseline for what “Anglicanism” was intended to be.

Unfortunately, as Nietzsche said, the “world is the will to power” and the trajectories of Anglicanism show this in practice. Folks have paid no heed to the genesis of Anglicanism and have made it into a multifarious mess. As a prescriptivist I cannot agree that their interpretations are valid, ultimately they fail the Scriptural test. But from a descriptivist perspective, they can only be called Anglicans because that is what they call themselves.

Here are some sources that can contribute to a better understanding of what Anglicanism was intended to be:

[1] The Doctrine of the Church of England as to the Effects of Baptism in the Case of Infants, by William Goode.

[2] The Primer: a Book of Private Prayer, edited by Henry Walter.

[3] Eighteen Sermons Preached in Oxford 1640, by Archbishop James Usher.

[4] Documentary Annals of the Reformed Church of England, Volume I and Volume II, by Edward Cardwell.

[5] The Principal Ecclesiastical Judgments Delivered in the Court of Arches 1867 to 1875, by Sir Robert Phillimore.

[6] Certain Sermons or Homilies: Appointed to be Read in Churches in the Time of the Late Queen Elizabeth, by the Church of England.

[7] Writings of the Rev. Dr. Thomas Cranmer

[8] Lives of the Elizabethan bishops of the Anglican Church, by Francis Overend White.

[9] Lawful Church Ornaments: Being an Historical Examination of the Judgment of Stephen Lushington in the case of Westerton v. Liddell, etc, by Thomas Walter Perry

[10] Formularies of faith put forth by authority during the reign of Henry VIII, ed. Charles Lloyd

[11] The Ecclesiastical Law of the Church of England, Sir Robert Phillimore

And of course, Richard Hooker’s Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, all the works of Latimer, Cranmer, and Jewel.

Catholics as Just Another Denomination

Mark Horne says:

But what if Roman Catholics are sectarians dreaming they constitute the historic and perpetual center of the identity of the Church?

What if the real Catholic Church is simply continuing on and the Roman Catholic Church is pretending that it is not lacking that full communion because it has created without warrant autistic conditions for fellowship?

Evangelicals have many issues to work on as they continue through history. But there is nothing to rejoin. If the Roman Catholic Church and another denomination join and receive, then that is simply two denominations uniting together. And if they join and receive under the shared assumption that the Roman Catholic Church is some kind of perpetual “center” that all others are “peripheral” to and must come “back” to, then all that would mean is that the Christian people of the other denomination have become persuaded of sectarian superstitions.

Conference Statement from the first Divine Commonwealth Conference

Conference Statement from the first Divine Commonwealth Conference held at the National Christian Center, Abuja, Nigeria, 7th-11th November 2011

In the name of God: the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit.  Amen

The first Divine Commonwealth Conference was held at the National Christian Centre, Abuja, from Monday 7th to Friday 11th November 2011.  It was an international, non-denominational spiritual conference initiated by the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) under the leadership of the Most Reverend Nicholas D Okoh, Primate.

We, the participants, numbering over 5,000 Bishops, Clergy and Laity, deeply appreciated words of encouragement and goodwill from notable leaders from Nigeria, other parts of Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States of America, including the retired Primate of the Church of Nigeria, the Primates of West Africa and Kenya, the Methodist Archbishop of Abuja and the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God.

1    We gathered as the People of God and members of the Divine Commonwealth determined to celebrate our oneness in Christ and reaffirm our unity around the fundamentals of the Christian faith; recognizing that we have been called into ‘One body … one Spirit … one hope … one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.’ 1 We reaffirmed our commitment to uphold our faith, loyalty and obedience to the Sovereign Lord of Heaven and Earth, and to prove ourselves faithful in season and out of season as His worthy disciples in all places and circumstances.  Continue reading “Conference Statement from the first Divine Commonwealth Conference”