Donlon’s Sacramental Confusion

While addressing Forward in Faith, North America, Canon Kevin Donlon said that the Church requires that “the historic sacraments must take place.” According to Donlon, “the question of the number of sacraments was not an issue, it was resolved long ago by the Church…” He then referred to an address given by Eastern Orthodox Metropolitan, Bishop Jonah to the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) in 2009, as if to say that Bishop Jonah had answered the question of the number of sacraments to his satisfaction. According to VirtueOnline:

What would it take for this reconciliation to occur? The Metropolitan was explicit:

Full affirmation of the orthodox Faith of the Apostles and Church Fathers, the seven Ecumenical Councils, the Nicene Creed in its original form (without the filioque clause inserted at the Council of Toledo, 589 A.D.), all seven Sacraments and a rejection of ‘the heresies of the Reformation.

I wouldn’t expect an Eastern Orthodox Bishop to think any differently, but I would expect an Anglican Canon to. Particularly since GAFCON issued the Jerusalem Declaration, saying in part:

4. We uphold the Thirty-nine Articles as containing the true doctrine of the Church agreeing with God’s Word and as authoritative for Anglicans today.

Canon Donlon is free to disagree with this, but he should be honest about it and not try to change this position from within. The other five sacraments of Rome are respected by us as signs, ceremonies and covenants, but not God-ordained sacraments. The testimonies of our early divines are clear. For example:

Besides this, we acknowledge there be two sacraments, which, we judge, properly ought to be called by this name: that is to say, Baptism, and the Sacrament of thanksgiving [Eucharist]. John Jewel, The Apology for the Church of England, page 51.

Therefore the papists’ seven sacraments, or septenary distribution, is confused, partly redundant, partly defective, and unworthy to be made a part of their faith or religion, or the matter of their peevish and ignorant contendings. Richard Baxter, A Christian Directory, III. 690

The determinate number of seven sacraments is no doctrine of the scripture, nor of the old authors. Thomas Cranmer, Miscellaneous Writings and Letters of Thomas Cranmer, page 115

Donlon Vs. Cranmer

Canon Kevin Donlon suggests that perhaps the Anglican Communion should adopt the Codex Canonum Ecclesiarium Orientalum as a normative basis of canon law. Donlon writes:

An example from a Byzantine source could be found in the Codex Canonum Ecclesiarium Orientalum. In this codex from the Oriental Rite here applied to Anglicanism, common law designates laws and lawful customs that would be common to all Anglican churches. This is opposed to a particular law, which designates laws, lawful customs, statutes and norms not common to the whole communion or to all provinces.

Among other travesties, the Codex Canonum Ecclesiarium Orientalum adheres to a seven sacraments view, a view which was explicitly rejected by the Anglican Reformers. Donlon has said, “the question of the number of sacraments was not an issue, it was resolved long ago by the church.” But in this, he reflects clearly his Roman Catholic background, and betrays a total lack of appreciation for the historic Anglican position, as codified in the Articles of Religion:

There are two Sacraments ordained of Christ our Lord in the Gospel, that is to say, Baptism, and the Supper of the Lord.
Those five commonly called Sacraments, that is to say, Confirmation, Penance, Orders, Matrimony, and Extreme Unction, are not to be counted for Sacraments of the Gospel, being such as have grown partly of the corrupt following of the Apostles, partly are states of life allowed in the Scriptures; but yet have not like nature of Sacraments with Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper, for that they have not any visible sign or ceremony ordained of God.

It is impossible for the Articles to be any more clear than they are at this point. Donlon may think that this only applied to the 16th century, but he is wrong. This is not a time-bound statement, but a universal one. And let me look at another issue near to my heart, from the Codex Canonum Ecclesiarium Orientalum, namely, icons. The Codex says:

Art. IV. Veneration of the Saints, of Sacred Images and Relics

Canon 884 – To foster the sanctification of the people of God the Church recommends to the special and filial veneration of the Christian faithful the Holy Mary ever Virgin, the Mother of God, whom Christ established as the Mother of the human race; it also promotes true and authentic devotion to the other saints by whose example the Christian faithful are edified and through whose intercession they are sustained.

Canon 885 – Veneration through public cult is permitted only to those servants of God who are listed among the saints or the blessed by the authority of the Church.

Canon 886 – The practice of displaying sacred icons or images in churches for the veneration of the Christian faithful is to remain in force in the manner and order established by the particular law of each Church sui iuris.

Canon 887 – §1. Sacred icons or precious images, that is, those which are outstanding due to antiquity or art, which are exposed in churches for the veneration of the Christian faithful, cannot be transferred to another church or alienated without the written consent given by the hierarch who exercises authority over that same church, with due regard for cann. 1034-1041.

This is again completely antithetical to the norms of Anglicanism. For example, in the year 1549, injunctions were issued by Edward VI, by virtue of 31 Hen. VIII. c. 8, confirmed by 34 and 35 Hen. VIII. c. 23, the Proclamation Statutes. In these injunctions we find:

3 Item. That such images as they know in any of their cures to be or have been so abused with pilgrimage or offerings of anything made thereunto, or shall be hereafter censed unto, they (and none other private persons) shall, for the avoiding of that most detestable offense of idolatry, forthwith take down, or cause to be taken down, and destroy the same; and shall suffer from henceforth no torches, nor candles, tapers, or images of wax to be set afore any image or picture, but only two lights upon the high altar, before the sacrament, which for the signification that Christ is the very true light of the world, they shall suffer to remain still, admonishing their parishioners that images serve for no other purpose but to be a remembrance, whereby men may be admonished of the holy lives and conversation of them that the said images do represent; which images if they do abuse for any other intent, they commit idolatry in the same, to the great danger of their souls.”

The Twenty-second of our Articles of Religion says:

The Romish doctrine concerning purgatory, pardons, worshipping and adoration, as well of images as of relics, and also invocation of saints, is a fond thing vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God.

So, if GAFCON was to agree with Donlon that a greater adherence to canon law is needed, why would we not rather start with Cranmer’s Reformatio Legum Ecclesiasticarum? Why on earth would we start with a Byzantine Catholic legal code that is like a dagger pointed at the heart of a Reformed Catholic Church?

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.



The Synod of Carthage on Infant Baptism

Synod of Carthage (1 May 418):

“Anyone who denies that newborn infants are to be baptized or who says that they are baptized for the remission of sins but do not bear anything of original sin from Adam which is expiated by the washing of regeneration, so that as a consequence the form of baptism ‘for the remission of sins’ is understood to be not true but false in their case-let him be anathema.”

Richard Hooker on Baptism

Rick had a post on baptism and Anglicans that caused me to look at Richard Hooker’s Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity on the same subject. Hooker says of baptism:

…we make not Baptism a cause of grace; yet the grace which is given them with their Baptism, doth so far forth depend on the very outward Sacrament, that God will have it embraced, not only as a Sign or token [of] what we receive, but also as an Instrument or mean whereby we receive grace, because Baptism is a Sacrament which God hath instituted in his Church, to the end that they which receive the same might thereby be incorporated into Christ; and so through his most precious merit obtain, as well that saving grace of imputation which taketh away all former guiltiness, as also that infused divine virtue of the Holy Ghost which giveth to the powers of the soul their first disposition towards future newness of life.
Predestination bringeth not to life without the grace of external vocation, wherein our Baptism is implied. For as we are not naturally men without birth, so neither are we Christian men in the eye of the Church of God but by new birth; nor according to the manifest ordinary course of divine dispensation new-born, but by that Baptism which both declareth and maketh us Christians. In which respect, we justly hold it to be the door of our actual entrance into God’s House, the first apparent beginning of life, a seal perhaps to the grace of election before received; but to our sanctification here, a step that hath not any before it. [V.60]

To try and bullet point his thinking:

  • Baptism is not a cause of grace
  • The grace given in baptism depends on the outward sacrament
  • It is not simply a sign of something, but is an instrument where we receive grace
  • Those who receive baptism are incorporated into Christ
  • Christ’s righteousness is imputed to the believer in baptism
  • The Holy Spirit begins our sanctification in baptism (our disposition is changed)
  • Baptism declares and makes us Christians

This should be a key part of any Anglican theology of baptism.

The Nicodemus Objection

Over on Facebook, Pastor Rick wrote:

…if there was continuity in the constituting [of] God’s covenant people, Jesus would never have told Nicodemus that he must be born again. How dare Jesus be so pietistic as to tell a respected “covenant” member that he needs to be born again.

He echoes a question I once asked: why would Jesus tell Nicodemus that he must be born again if he was already in the covenant by circumcision?

Someone pointed out to me that “…Jesus is not talking about individual regeneration in John 3. Rather, he is talking about the need for a new Israel, a new humanity. Nicodemus needs to follow Jesus into the new world through death and resurrection. Being baptized will unite him with the disciples of Jesus, with those who are following Jesus into a new world.”

James Jordan puts it this way:

Nicodemus is brilliant. He says to Jesus, “You jest, surely. How many times have we been born again? the Flood, Sinai, Elijah, Cyrus. But it has never taken. You would have to back into mother’s womb and start over.”

“Yep,” says Jesus. “And watch me do it.”

Sure enough, Nicodemus is there when Jesus is buried back into mother’s womb. I’m certain Nicodemus knew Jesus would rise again, born anew from the soil. Maybe the disciples had doubts, but Nicodemus knew.

In union with Jesus’ resurrection we are all born anew from mother’s womb.

He also points out that John describes the tomb as a virgin:

19.41 Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid.

(Genesis 24.16 The young woman was very attractive in appearance, a maiden whom no man had known.)

Put this together with Luke’s record of Jesus vs. Sadducees on resurrection where he says that one becomes a son of God by being a son of the resurrection, and Peter’s sermon in Acts 2 about the “birth pangs” of death being unable to stop Jesus, the use of Psalm 2 (“today I have begotten you”) in the preaching of the resurrection of Jesus in Acts, the title “firstborn of the death,” Romans all over the place….

And then there is this from Biblical Horizons.

And this essay from Jordan’s “Trees and Thorns,” chapter 10.

Then Yahweh God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul (Genesis 2:7).
Continue reading “The Nicodemus Objection”

I’m Going Crackers

Sigh. I know that the church we are attending is not everything I hoped and dreamed of. I know it, I do. But why oh why do churches use grape juice and crackers in the Lord’s Supper? It probably doesn’t phase a lot of folks, because they don’t think about it much, but once you think about it, it drives you…crackers…as the Brits say. People who know that every word of Jesus is important and to be obeyed think nothing of ignoring him when he says “bread” and “wine.” As if bread is the same as Saltines and wine can be grape juice.

James Jordan has put it better than I can:

But do the churches do these things? Let’s see. First of all, Jesus said to bring wine. How many churches use wine today? The American evangelicals have decided to give wine over to the devil, instead of claiming it for Christ. As a result, they use grape juice. Jesus, however, used (alcoholic) wine. He turned water into wine as the first manifestation of His Kingdom. He ate and drank with publicans and sinners, and was accused of being a glutton and a drunkard which shows what He was drinking (Matt. 11:19). He prescribed just this kind of liquid for His meal.

But do we do what He said? Usually not. And this is nothing new. For centuries the Western Catholic Church (“Roman” Catholicism) rejected the cup altogether. It has only been since the Second Vatican Council that Catholics have been able to drink wine in communion.

Well, what about bread? Suppose my wife phoned me at work and said, “Jim, would you go by the store and get some bread on your way home?” Now, let’s say I bought some saltines instead. My guess is that she would be unhappy. She would say, “Jim, that’s not bread; those are saltines. Don’t you know the difference between bread and saltines?” Or suppose I brought some pressed-out wafers home?

I think we know what bread is. I do. Don’t you? Bread is bread. If we believe in using unleavened bread, it should still be unleavened bread and not crackers or wafers.

Amazing, isn’t it? Jesus asks us to do two simple things, and century after century the Church comes up with weird substitutes. Why is this? Why can’t we just do what Jesus said to do? As I reflect upon this, it seems to me that the reason has to be that there is real grace in the Lord’s Supper, and that Satan fears that grace. Thus, Satan has persuaded people not to do what Jesus said to do.

I thought that at least a Presbyterian church would use real wine, never mind that they don’t allow baptized Christians to partake (the youth). But lo, they do not. Grape juice and crackers, just like every other shallow church on the block. Gag. Truly, the Protestant churches are much like the Medieval Catholics, as more and more folks are noticing:

Third, communion is administered infrequently, as in the late Middle Ages, so the faithful only receive a few times a year. And Evangelicals have found a new way to effectively deny the cup to the laity by avoiding the biblical element of wine. (Where is Jan Hus when we need him?) Against dominical command and the clear words of the New Testament, most Evangelicals persist in employing grape juice rather than wine in the sacrament. Paradoxically, those whose approach to Scripture might be deemed most literalistic choose to set aside Christ’s clear injunction.

Here, in a sense, is a modern Evangelical version of what the Anglican Thirty-nine Articles call a “work of supererogation.” Evangelicals may still reject the idea of accumulating surplus merit, but the implication of substituting grape juice for wine in the sacrament is that we know better than our Lord and can be more pious than Jesus. And some Evangelicals have an attitude toward alcohol that one could only describe as superstitious.

It’s really difficult to be a Christian in America when basic things like creeds, sacraments and liturgy are unheard of and wild notions to the vast majority of flocks. I hope it changes someday.

Wright on Rome

Over at Christianity Today there is an article on Protestants who defect to Rome. Bishop N.T. Wright is quoted in the article, but his full quote is not provided. Here is his full quote:

a. I’m on sabbatical writing Volume IV of my big series, on Paul; so I don’t have time for more than a quick response.

b. ‘Sacramental, transformational, communal, eschatological’? If you gave me that list and said ‘Where in the Christian world would you find that?’ I could easily and truthfully answer: (i) in the best of the Reformed tradition — spend a couple of days at Calvin College, or read Jamie  Smith’s new book, and you’ll see; (ii) in much of the best of the  charismatic movement, once it’s shed its low-church prejudices and discovered how much God loves bodies; (iii) in the best of… dare I say it… Anglicanism… ; (iv) in some bits (not all) of the Emerging Church movement . . .

c. Trent said both much more and much less than this. Sacramental, yes, but in a muddled way with an unhelpful ontology; transformational, yes, but far too dependent on unbiblical techniques and practices; communal, yes, but don’t let the laity (or the women) get any fancy ideas about God working new things through them; and eschatological?? Eschatology in the biblical sense didn’t loom large, and indeed that was a key element in the Reformers’ protest: the once-for-allness of the events of Jesus’ death and resurrection as producing, not a new system for doing the same stuff over and over, but a new world. Trent, and much subsequent RC theology, has had a habit of never spring-cleaning, so you just live in a house with more and more clutter building up, lots of right answers to wrong questions (e.g. transubstantiation) which then get in the way when you want to get  something actually done. In particular, Trent gave the wrong answer,  at a deep level, to the nature/grace question, which is what’s at the  root of the Marian dogmas and devotions which, despite contrary  claims, are in my view neither sacramental, transformational,  communal nor eschatological. Nor biblical. The best RCs I know (some  of whom would strongly disagree with the last point, some would  strongly agree) are great conversation partners mainly because they  have found ways of pushing the accumulated clutter quietly to one  side and creating space for real life. But it’s against the grain of the Tridentine system, in my view. They aren’t allowed to say that but clearly many of them think it. Joining in is just bringing more of your own clutter to an already confused and overcrowded room…

d. I am sorry to think that there are people out there whose Protestantism has been so barren that they never found out about sacraments, transformation, community or eschatology. Clearly this person needed  a change. But to jump to Rome for that reason is very odd. It reminds  me of the fine old German NT scholar Heinrich Schlier, who found that the only way to be a Protestant was to be a Bultmannian, so, because he couldn’t take  Bultmann, became a Roman Catholic; that was the only other option in  his culture. Good luck to him; happily, most of us have plenty of  other options. To say ‘wow, I want that stuff, I’d better go to Rome’ is like someone suddenly discovering (as I’m told Americans occasionally do — sorry, cheap shot) that there are other countries in the world and so getting the first big boat he finds in New York to take him there . . . when there were plenty of planes lined up and waiting at JFK. Rome is a big, splendid, dusty old ocean liner, with lots of grand cabins, and, at present, quite a fine captain and some excellent officers — but also quite a few rooms in need of repair.  Yes, it may take you places, but it’s slow and you might get seasick  from time to time. And the navigators have been told that they must never acknowledge when they’ve been going in the wrong direction . . .

e. I spent three very happy weeks as the Anglican observer at the Vatican’s Synod of Bishops last October. They were talking about the Bible: about how for so long they have more or less banned the laity from reading or studying it, and how now they want to change all that, to insist that every Catholic man, woman, child, cat and dog should have the Bible in their own mother tongue and be taught to read it, study it, pray with it, individually and together. Hallelujah! Who knows what might happen. Question: why did nobody say this in 1525? If they had, we’d have been saved a lot of bother.
Let’s engage cheerfully in as much discussion with our Roman friends as we can. They are among my best ecumenical conversation partners, and  some of them are among my dear friends. But let’s not imagine that a renewed biblical theology will mean we find ourselves saying ‘you guys were right after all’ just at the point where, not explicitly but actually, they are saying that to us . . .

Aside from what may be an implicit endorsement of women’s ordination in there, that’s pretty good stuff! I particularly like his rejection of Mariolatry in Rome. Perhaps Rowan Williams should listen to Bishop Wright more.

Sacramental Faith

Writing in 1982, James Jordan gets to the heart of the difference between a catholic, Biblical approach to the sacraments and what the rest of “evangelicalism” has become:

…the sacraments are seen the same way: men are to make a decision, then be admitted to baptism (the Baptist view) or to the Eucharist (the Lutheran and Calvinistic view). The Bible, however, indicates that faith is presuppositional. The child is to be taught to believe from the beginning. It is not his initial decision which evidences his faith, but rather his perseverance to the end. He participates in the sacrament, in both its forms, from the beginning. The sacrament of God’s grace is not something he must attain by making a decision, walking an aisle, memorizing a catechism, or going through a rite of confirmation; but rather the sacrament of eating dinner with Jesus at His House is the presupposition of the child’s growth in grace.

Romanism and Orthodoxy

Steven Wedgeworth’s lectures on the subject are now available here. The subjects are:

“Why I’m Not A Roman Catholic”
“Lost in the Shamayim: A Psychology of Conversion”
“The Eternal City and the Seven Councils: Just Who is the Church?”
“What’s a Reformed Catholic to Do?: Towards an Equilibrium of Christendom”
“Why I’m Not A Roman Catholic”
“Lost in the Shamayim: A Psychology of Conversion”
“The Eternal City and the Seven Councils: Just Who is the Church?”
“What’s a Reformed Catholic to Do?: Towards an Equilibrium of Christendom”