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An Outline of the Faith (1979) compared with The Articles of Religion (1801)
The Prayer Book Society [1928 BCP] ^ | 10/10/2005 | The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon

Posted on 10/11/2005 5:27:20 PM PDT by sionnsar

1. Origins of each

Each major Church or denomination normally has a Confession of Faith wherein what it officially believes, teaches and confesses is presented. Of these the most used in recent times is The Catechism of the Catholic Church, which is a major book in terms of its size. Further, it can only be describes as being traditional in its teaching and attractive in its format.

The Catechism printed in the ECUSA Prayer Book of 1979 (pp.844ff.) and known as “An Outline of the Faith” was created in an exceptionally novel way. The committee given the task of producing it were told to follow the principle of “the rule of praying is the rule of believing” [ lex orandi lex credendi], which was then a popular slogan, and to examine carefully the Texts in the 1979 Prayer Book, which address God as “You” and are usually called “the Rite Two” texts, in order to find in them what is the Faith of the Episcopal Church. Texts taken over with editing from the 1928 edition of the Book of Common Prayer and placed in the 1979 Book, and which address God as “Thou,” were not to be used.

The ECUSA wished to have a truly modern confession of Faith based on the creative work of their liturgists. Earlier it had rejected the draft of a Catechism on traditional Anglican lines produced by an official committee, chaired by Bishop Stanley Atkins of Eau Claire.

Thus “An Outline of the Faith” is unique as an Anglican Confession of Faith for it is not that Faith which is believed, taught and confessed on the basis of the content of the Bible and the interpretation of the Bible in the Church. Rather, it is based on the presumption that modern American liturgists, who create new forms of liturgy in a hurry and in the atmosphere of the 1960s, place within these Services the truth of the Christian Faith (even when it is different from the official teaching of the past in both the American Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion). This approach to creating a Confession of Faith presupposes a strong doctrine of authority of the General Convention and autonomy by the ECUSA in approving first the Liturgy and then the Confession, and a weak doctrine of relations with the other Provinces of the Anglican Family of Churches and with Anglican and Catholic tradition.

In the various editions (e.g., 1662, 1928) of the classic Book of Common Prayer [BCP], there is printed along with the BCP itself, the Ordinal (Ordination Services) and the Articles of Religion. These Three have always been the Formularies and Standards of the Anglican Way. Also within the BCP itself there is a short Catechism, based on the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments, and associated with Confirmation.

The Articles of Religion were first officially approved in 1571 in the Church of England, after the BCP had been in use for twenty years or so. However, they were first written at the time when the BCP itself was also being created. They were certainly not based on the principle of “the law of praying is the law of believing” but on that of confessing and stating what the Christian Faith, based on the Bible, is all about, and how a National Church is to confess that Faith.

When the Articles were adopted by the Protestant Episcopal Church [PECUSA] in 1801 they were edited so that their content was not related to a monarchy but to a new republic. However, their teaching on the content of the Faith and what is essential and what is secondary in a National Church or Province remained fully in place. These Articles remained as the Confession of Faith of the PECUSA and then ECUSA until 1979 when they were relegated to the status of a historical document without any doctrinal authority at all.

Since the longish 1979 Catechism is deliberately unlike the short original Catechism of the BCP, and since it effectively serves the same place now as the Articles of Religion once did in terms of being a Formulary of the Episcopal Church, our contrast will be -- in subsequent short essays -- between the 1979 Catechism and the 1571 (England) and 1801 (USA) Articles. We shall discover that they present two very different accounts of the Christian Religion and Christian Church. (And we need to hold in mind that the ECUSA has actually continued its progressive journey since 1979 and that its next “Outline” due by 2010 will probably be much more radical than that of 1979!) A final comment -- If we were to contrast the longish 1979 Catechism with the shortish & 1928BCP Catechism we would come to the same results, but with less detail of major points.

The Revd Dr Peter Toon October 10, 2005

TOPICS: Mainline Protestant
An Outline of the Faith (1979) compared with The Articles of Religion (1801): Part 2

2. Human being as a sinner

If both the Articles and Outline are correct in their estimate of human nature then human beings have improved dramatically in terms of their moral and spiritual being in the last two centuries!

The Outline begins with a heading, “Human Nature’”, which contains a description of human beings as part of God’s creation and made in his image (which is defined as being free to make choices and live in harmony with both creation and God). Then it explains that human beings have not used their freedom aright for they have made wrong choices and thereby rebelled against God.

So who can help them? God can! And his first way of helping the human race was by his revealing of himself in nature and history, particularly Israel’s history. In this history (dealt with in section 2, “God the Father”) God revealed himself as “the Father almighty creator of heaven and earth.” The universe is good and is “the work of a single loving God who creates, sustains and directs it.” Further, within the created order all people are worthy of respect and honor and all as made in God’s image can respond to the love of God.

What about sin? It is presented as the wrong use of freedom and of making bad choices. There is no permanent “bondage of the will” here to sin and thus “all can respond to the love of God” anywhere at any time. In fact, in the fifth section, ‘Sin and Redemption,” sin is defined as “the seeking of our own will instead of the will of God, thus distorting our relationship with God, with other people and with all creation.” Further, it is claimed that “sin has power over us because we lose out liberty when our relationship with God is distorted

In the Outline, the type of doctrine found in the Rite 2 Services of the 1979 book is summarized. It is a theology which rightly emphasizes that God is the Creator of the universe and what he made was good. At the same time it is a theology which fails to identify clearly the biblical basis of the revealed name of “the Father” (which is not, as suggested in section 2, because he is Creator of all persons, but rather because he is the Father of the only-begotten Son, the eternal Word). Then, it presents a doctrine of human sinfulness which omits any reference to sin as a permanent disease or bias of the soul. That is there is actual sin but not “original sin.”

If we turn to the Articles then we find that they begin not with human nature but with the primary Christian doctrine, God the Holy Trinity, the One God who is the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, the Creator of the visible and invisible worlds. Then they speak of the Incarnation of the Son, so that he becomes One Person, with a divine and a human nature, and as such he lives, dies as a sacrifice for sin and is raised from the dead.

We may regret that the Articles do not provide any statements of man made in the image of God. In the sixteenth century this doctrine was assumed by Catholics and Protestants as a given, as was also the doctrine that this image is now deface and corrupted in all of us. But the Articles do deal fully with human sin which they describe in that tradition of biblical theology that is usually called Augustinian. And here the difference between the 1979 doctrine and the Reformed Catholic is great. Article IX is entitled “Of Original or Birth-Sin” and Article X “Of Free Will.” Here each of us is declared to have from birth a human nature that is not perfect for it already is spiritually deformed and has a bias towards evil. This human nature will only be fully sanctified and redeemed with the resurrection of the body at the last Day. In this life God provides regeneration, new birth by the Holy Spirit from above, which introduces into the soul a new principle, a new nature, which by grace mortifies the old nature and enables the born-again believer to live in the freedom of Christ. Without the divine act of regeneration, each person remains in bondage to sin for the human will is not free to choose to do that true good which is acceptable to God, the Holy One.

In the Articles, the doctrine of the sinfulness of man is stated in order to present the doctrine of God’s salvation provided through the saving work of Jesus Christ as the Mediator (see especially Articles XI to XV on the doctrine of Justification by Faith through Grace). At the center of the Book of Common Prayer (1662/1928) service of Holy Communion is the presentation of Salvation from the Father through the Son by the Holy Spirit, in which salvation man is justified by faith and is sent forth to produce good works in faithfulness to the glory of God. In contrast, the Rite II services lack the depth and clarity of the Reformed Catholic presentation of justification by faith.

October 11, 2005

1 posted on 10/11/2005 5:27:28 PM PDT by sionnsar
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An Outline of the Faith (1979) compared with The Articles of Religion (1801): Part 3

3. Who is Jesus?

Do the Outline and Articles have the same estimate, doctrine and evaluation of Jesus? Or are there differences? Obviously if the claim is that Jesus is really the Saviour of the whole world then who he really is counts, and counts tremendously.

In section six of the Outline, “Jesus is the only Son of God” in the sense that he “is the only perfect image of the Father and shows us the nature of God,” and that nature is love. “By God’s own act, his divine Son received our human nature from the Virgin Mary, his mother”. And “the divine Son became human, so that in him human beings might be adopted as children of God, and be made heirs of God’s kingdom.” By his obedience to God, Jesus “made the offering which we could not make; in him we are freed from the power of sin and reconciled to God.” And “by his resurrection, Jesus overcame death and opened for us the way of eternal life.”

In contrast, Article II (following Article I on the Holy Trinity) describes Jesus as he is presented in the decrees of the ecumenical councils of the Church. He is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity and as such, as the Incarnate Son & Logos (Word), he is One Person with two natures. That is, he possesses the identical, same deity as does the Father and also he possesses the same human nature as his earthly mother, the Virgin Mary. And as this One Person, this Christ who is very God and very Man, he truly suffered, was dead, was buried” in order to reconcile his Father to us, and to be a sacrifice not only for original guilt but also for the actual sins of men.” He then rose from the dead and in his body he ascended into heaven.

Whilst the Articles clearly commit the Church to the dogma of the Trinity set forth by the Ecumenical Councils of Nicea, Constantinople and Chalcedon (see Article I & V), it is not clear at all what doctrine of the Trinity the Outline assumes or commends. There is no section on God as Trinity but the last question in section eight on the Creeds asks, “What is the Trinity.” The answer is based upon the innovatory, opening Acclamation of the Eucharist and other Rite Two services. It reads: “The Trinity is one God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” Now this statement because of its form and its content can be read in a variety of ways, virtually all of which produce a doctrine that is different from the Catholic dogma of Articles I & II & V.

It may be read as stating that God as Trinity means that the One Person of God makes himself known in three essential Ways or Modes of Being – as Father, as Son and as Holy Spirit. This is Modalism or Sabellianism or Unitarianism. It may also be read as stating that God is a Threesome, in the sense that he is the unity of Three beings of equal or similar nature. This is Tritheism. Or it may be read – but this requires a great act of imagination and charity – as a careless summary of the patristic doctrine. This is: God is a Trinity in Unity and a Unity in Trinity, and that the Three Persons of the Trinity are one God, in that they all share and possess the one identical Godhead and are thus of identical substance/essence/being as and with each other.

Nowhere in the Outline is Jesus as Son of God said to be homoousios with the Father and the Holy Spirit, that is of the one, same identical divine nature. Further, although in section nine on the Holy Spirit, the Spirit is called “the Third Person of the Trinity”, this is immediately defined as “God at work in the world and in the Church”, whereas the primary reference in Trinitarian discourse is normally to his position within the Trinity, as proceeding from the Father through the Son (see Article V).

If the Nicene Creed is removed from the Rite II texts, then it may be reasonably claimed that they do not possess, clearly teach or affirm week by week the biblical and catholic doctrines of the Trinity and the Person of Jesus Christ. Regrettably the translation of this Creed within the same Rite II texts is faulty at various points (e.g. in stating that Jesus was conceived “by the power of the Holy Spirit” when the original is that he was conceived by the Holy Spirit, the Third Person himself!) and so the orthodoxy of the Rite II texts is further in question with the use of this Creed. Only on Trinity Sunday with the special Preface and Collect is there any real sense of the presence of Catholic dogma and teaching.

In contrast, the Catholic doctrine of the Trinity permeates the text of the Book of Common Prayer (1662/1928) and the Ordinal.

October 11, 2005

2 posted on 10/11/2005 5:28:03 PM PDT by sionnsar (†† || (To Libs:) You are failing to celebrate MY diversity! || Iran Azadi)
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3 posted on 10/11/2005 5:29:03 PM PDT by sionnsar (†† || (To Libs:) You are failing to celebrate MY diversity! || Iran Azadi)
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