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?

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.

George Harrison’s Approach to God II

In an interview with George Harrison, the following question and answer outline Harrison’s caricature of Christianity:

Mukunda: What would you say is the difference between the Christian view of God, and Krishna as represented in the Bhagavad-gita?

George: […] It’s a joyful relationship. But there’s this morbid side to the way many represent Christianity today, where you don’t smile, because it’s too serious, and you can’t expect to see God–that kind of stuff.

I believe Harrison’s view of Christianity is a reflection of his Catholic upbringing, and perhaps European churches in general. What I fail to understand is him saying that you can’t expect to see God. Christendom has a history of art and the representation of Christ going back for over a millennia. He is setting up straw men only to knock them down. Further, I would guess that even his priests growing up smiled once in a while! Certainly there was a more sober approach to God in pre-Vatican II Catholic parish than in a ring of Hare Krishna devotees chanting and dancing, but that’s a pretty weak reason for deciding on ultimate truth. Harrison continues:

If there is God, we must see Him, and I don’t believe in the idea you find in most churches, where they say, “No, you’re not going to see Him. He’s way up above you. Just believe what we tell you and shut up.”

Once more, if he is referring to pictures of Krishna, then why can’t he understand that Christian iconography fulfills the same function?  And the position of Christian churches is not to shut up and believe, but rather to submit to the teaching authority of God as revealed in his Scriptures. I doubt that Hare Krishna was any different. Further, we know that God is both immanent and transcendent, he isn’t ‘way above us’, he’s all around us in his omnipresence. “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.”

I mean, the knowledge that’s given in Prabhupada’s books–the Vedic stuff–that’s the world’s oldest scriptures.

Well, it’s not older than Genesis, but that’s a matter of presuppositions.

They say that man can become purified, and with divine vision he can see God. You get pure by chanting, then you see Him.

Harrison even wrote a song about this, “Chant the name of the Lord and you’ll be free.” Here is a point of contact with Christianity. We can be purified, we can see God. In fact, this is the goal of the Christian life – to experience the divine vision of God in the end. As Richard Hooker puts it: “concerning these virtues, the first of which beginning here with a weak apprehension of things not seen, endeth with the intuitive vision of God in the world to come; the second beginning here with a trembling expectation of things far removed and as yet but only heard of, endeth with real and actual fruition of that which no tongue can express;”

So we both want to see God, but chanting does not accomplish the purity Harrison sought. Chanting may induce hallucinations and dissociated states of mind, but it will not bring you near to God. What we need is what Paul said, “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” (Colossians 2:13-15 ESV)

God brought us near to him, without chanting or fasting, but rather by faith, baptism and a new life.

Freedom is a Road Seldom Travelled by the Multitude

Although I have theological differences with Archbishop Duncan, I congratulate both he and the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh on their growth.


We are eighty-two congregations as this convention opens.  We have grown by thirty congregations since realignment.  This is the largest number of congregations ever for the Diocese of Pittsburgh.  We lost a third of our congregations at realignment, but here is the Lord’s promise working itself out.  We are more than we were three years ago!  For those willing to leave what they have – whatever they have – to follow Jesus the restoration is a hundredfold.  Deep ecumenical friendships and partnerships have also been added.  Anglican congregations are in partnership with Methodist congregations, Presbyterian congregations, Non-denominational congregations, and Catholic congregations for new homes and meeting places, and even some shared ministries.  We meet here in this Benedictine Abbey and College as a sign of what has happened. God has provided new friends and encouragers for our post-exodus journey.  We are much more – yet possessing much less – than we were before.  (2 Cor.6.10)