Answer Me This
by Claude Beaufort Moss
Longmans, Green, 1959
1. God (through Chapter 15 below on this page)
2. Jesus Christ
3. The Holy Spirit
4. Holy Scripture
5. Original Sin
6. Grace and Salvation
7. Free Will and Predestination
8. The Blessed Virgin Mary
9. The Church
10. The Anglican Communion
11. The Eastern Churches
12. The Roman Communion
13. The Church and the Sects
14. The Apostolic Succession
15. The Sacraments in General
16. Baptism and Confirmation (Chapters 16-32)
17. The Holy Communion
18. Absolution and Unction
20. Death, Judgment, hell, and Heaven (the Last Things)
22. Worship and Liturgical Customs
23. Religious Communities
25. Ornaments of the Church and Its Ministers
26. Anglican Teaching
27. Church Order
28. Relations with Other Christians
29. Differences of Churchmanship
30. Canonization and Other Matters
31. Personal Problems
32. Miscellaneous Matters
Index (omitted for web)
I have written this book because I was invited to do so. My commission was to answer al the questions that were asked in as plain, brief, and forthright a manner as possible. I know nothing about the askers, except that they are Americans; I have been constantly conscious that I am writing for them as a foreigner and that my firsthand knowledge of America is limited by a week’s visit in the United States many years ago. I have also been aware that the faith of the Church is not limited or changed by accidents of race, color, or location: it is the same everywhere, for all men and for all time. Nonessential customs and practices do vary, however, and for helping me to speak intelligently to those of the American Church I am grateful to the Reverend Harris T. Hall, who has gone over my gook with a careful eye and a willing hand.
Because I cannot expect all my readers to have access to theological libraries, I have seldom given references, except to the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer (English or American).
Some of the questions are about facts, others about the teaching of the Bible and of the Church; but others are about matters of opinion, in which cases I have given my opinion, right or wrong. If the reader does not agree with me, he must ask himself why he doesn’t. I am prepared, of course, to give reasons for everything I have said, and many, but not all, of my opinions (for no one can have sufficient knowledge about so many things) are the result of long and careful study. If, therefore, I seem to anyone to write too dogmatically, it is not because I set any great value on my own opinions, but because I was required to give, as far as possible, a plain and definite answer to every question.
Should anyone read this book who does not belong to a Church of the Anglican communion, let him bear in mind that it was not written especially for him and that at first he cannot be expected to agree with everything I have said. I hope that I have not been guilty of want of charity or of courtesy toward fellow Christians of any allegiance. I am sure, however, that it is a mistake, which has often been committed, to conceal what one really believes for fear of hurting people’s feelings. I have never had any doubt that the Catholic religion as understood by the Anglican Churches is true and I can see no reason whatever for concealing the truth which I have been commissioned to preach.
C. B. Moss
Chapter One – God
1. What is God?
God is not “what”; He is “who”.
God is a spirit, which means He is necessarily a personal being. God is self-conscious – He thinks, knows, chooses. He is pure spirit: He has no body, and therefore cannot be seen by human physical eyes (St. John 1:18). If God were not personal He could not be the cause of personality, nor could He have designed the universe, nor could He be morally good.
God is not limited by space or time. He is present everywhere. He is eternal; that is, He always has been and always will be, or, more correctly, He always is, for there is no past or future for Him. God can do everything that is not contrary to His own nature. Thus “it is impossible for God to lie” (Titus 1:2, Heb. 6:18). He cannot do what is contrary to reason or contrary to love. But God has chosen to set limits to His own power, by giving us free will. Having once decided to do this, He will not change His purpose (James 1:17, etc.).
God does not depend upon anyone or anything outside Himself. God made out of nothing all things that exist and He keeps all things in being; if He did not, they would immediately cease to exist. He knows everything that has been, is now, or will be. He is perfectly holy, just, wise, and merciful. He is love (I John 4:8). He made all things good; He did not create evil, but evil is believed to be not something but the absence of something (see Question 6).
God is one, and only one. But He is three “persons” (see Question 10). God is revealed as fully as possible in Jesus Christ (St. John 1:1–18). His love, which is the most profound thing we know about Him, is shown in the life and death which Jesus Christ, God the Son, experienced for us.
2. What reasons can or does the Church give for an intellectual belief in God?
There are five traditional proofs of the existence of God:
(1) From the agreement of all nations. All races of men feel and have felt the need to worship. This need would not exist if there were no real object of worship which would satisfy the need. (It is true that there are today many who seem to feel no such need, but the absence of a felt need to worship has arisen only in modern times; no race or tribe has ever been discovered which had no religion whatever.) Therefore the general opinion of mankind is opposed to those who deny that there is a God; the burden of proof thus rests upon those who think there is no God.
(2) From the necessity of a First Cause (the Cosmological Argument). There is only one way in which we can understand what is meant by a cause, and that is a personal will. The very idea of cause requires such a will. All causes are the result, direct or indirect, of the Will of God.
(3) From the necessity for a Designer of the universe (the Teleological Argument). The universe is a vast and complicated system in which all the parts are fitted to one another. This system must have been designed by Someone; machines don’t come into existence without a mind to design them. The evolution of the universe requires that there must have been a Designer not only to have made it but to continue to guide its development.
(4) From the fact that the human power of reasoning requires the idea of God (the Ontological Argument). This point is too difficult to explain here, for it cannot be understood without some training in philosophy.
(5) From the existence of our human belief in morality and our acknowledgment of conscience. As far as we know there is no such thing in nonhuman nature. Morality and conscience must be either accidental products of life on this planet or they must correspond to something outside mankind. We cannot believe the former; the latter can only mean that the Maker of the universe is a moral Being.
To these proofs may be added a further proof from the existence of beauty in the natural world, that its Maker is the supreme Artist, and the proof from the necessity of an unmoved source of motion. [J. H. Beibitz, Belief, Faith, and Proof.]
None of these proofs depends upon revelation. The revelation of God, first to the Hebrews under the Old Covenant and then in Jesus Christ, has given rise to an enormous part of human history, for which there is ample evidence, but the proof of God’s existence does not rest entirely upon this revelation.
These intellectual proofs are cumulative, that is, they confirm one another by leading to the same conclusion, that there is a God, but they cannot do more than produce a very high degree of probability. But we need something more than proof; it is not enough to believe that there is a God; the devils also believe and tremble (James 2:19). We have to surrender ourselves to Him: to believe in Him, to fear Him, and to love Him, with all our heart and mind and soul and strength. For this we need the gift of Faith which He alone can give.
3. We all worship the same God, don’t we?
Christians, Jews, and Moslems nominally worship the same God, the God Who made a covenant with Abraham, though many of them hold false or defective beliefs about Him. But in reality many Christians (it is not for me to speak of the others) worship money, or power, or pleasure, or popularity, or their nation, or their children, since these are valued more highly than God. Whoever makes any person, thing, or cause the object of his life, rather than to serve and glorify God, is worshiping an idol. God has said, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Ex. 20:3).
Christians believe that God may be worshiped, or prayed to, only through Jesus Christ. For this reason we are forbidden to join in worship, even of the true God, with those who cannot pray through Jesus Christ, because they do not believe in His Godhead. Christians may pray and worship God only with other Christians; that is, with those who recognize Jesus Christ as God.
4. In this modern age, how do we know God’s Will? Through pure intelligence, reason, feeling, etc.? How can I be sure that I am doing God’s Will?
We learn God’s Will by praying for His help and making use of the means of discovering His Will which He Himself has given us. First, there is Holy Scripture: we need to steep ourselves in Scripture, especially the New Testament, with the aid of all the best advice we can get for understanding it. Secondly, there is the teaching of the Church in its widest sense; especially of the Episcopal Church if we belong to it, and of the best and wisest teachers we can find within it. Thirdly, there is our reason, with which we judge between truth and falsehood, and our conscience, with which we judge between right and wrong. Sometimes we may also see God’s Will in the events and circumstances of life. For instance, a man had been offered a certain position quite unexpectedly and without any effort on his part. After considering it carefully he concluded that it was God’s Will that he should accept it, and this has turned out to be true, so far as one may dare to say that anything of this kind is God’s Will.
5. Why am I here?
“To glorify God, and enjoy Him for ever.” The reason for my existence is to serve and love God, to praise and thank Him for all His goodness, and for His sake to love my neighbor as myself: to take my share in bringing all human beings into union with God. 6. Did God create evil?
No, for all things that He made are good (Gen. 1:31). Even the Devil was created good.
St. Augustine taught that the only evil thing is an evil will and that evil is not something but the absence of something, the absence of love; just as a hole is not something but the absence of something, as darkness is not a thing but the absence of light. In Isaiah 45:7 God says, “I make peace and create evil,” but “evil” here, as often in the Old Testament, means not sin but misfortune.
7. What is revelation? How is it to be interpreted?
Revelation is the message of God, given to mankind through the Hebrew prophets, and more fully in His Son Jesus Christ. “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds” (Heb. 1:1, 2).
God’s revelation was recorded by the writers of the Bible, who were given for that purpose the special guidance which is called “inspiration.” The most important part of these records is the story of the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is found in the four books, the Gospels According to St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke, and St. John. But the writers of the Bible were men, limited by the language in which they wrote and by the ignorance of the age in which they lived. They were not free from the danger of making mistakes; the earlier writers especially had most imperfect notions about God’s nature and purpose. The Hebrews were a primitive people, and they were not taught everything at once. Their ideas about history, geography, astronomy, etc., were those of their age and country, and are not to be regarded as revealed by God, even though we find them in the Bible. But the Bible, under the inspiration of God, tells us all that we need to know in order that we may have eternal life and union with Him.
We cannot hope to understand the Bible without long and careful study and without the help of the best commentaries written by those who have read the biblical books in the original languages. Some of the books are extremely difficult. Each book should be read as a separate volume. To read the Bible “from cover to cover” is foolish and has little value. Begin with the New Testament, especially the Gospels. The beginner is advised to avoid the Revelation of St. John, a book which is not meant to be understood literally but requires the aid of a good commentary (those by H. B. Swete and Martin Kiddle are recommended); some people, with matter-of-fact minds, cannot hope to understand it at all. Much of the Bible, especially the Old Testament, is poetry, and nearly all of it was written by Hebrews, who thought in pictures, not in concepts as most of us do.
8. What is Trinity?
The New Testament teaches clearly that there is and can be only one God; that Jesus Christ is God, though distinct from God the Father; that the Holy Spirit is equal to the Father and the Son, though distinct from both (St. John 14:25, 15:26; Rom. 8:16; II Cor. 13:14). From these and other passages the Church has worked out the doctrine of the Trinity. The doctrine cannot be better expressed than in the ancient doctrinal hymn, the Quicunque Vult, which has unhappily been omitted from the American Prayer Book but is found in all other Anglican Prayer Books. It is held to be binding upon their members by the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Communions, and by all Lutherans; thus it is found, translated into Finnish and Swedish, in the new catechism of the Lutheran Church of Finland, which is taught in all Finnish schools.
The Quicunque Vult says: “The Catholic Faith is this: that we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Substance. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost: but the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost is all one: the glory equal, the majesty coeternal. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost. ... The Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God, and yet they are not three Gods, but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, and the Holy Ghost is Lord; and yet not three Lords, but one Lord. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by Himself to be God and Lord; so we are forbidden by the Catholic Religion to say, there be three Gods, or three Lords. ... And in this Trinity none is afore or after other; none is greater or less than another, but the whole three Persons are coeternal together, and coequal. So that in all things, as is aforesaid, the Trinity in Unity and the Unity in Trinity is to be worshiped. He, therefore, that wishes to be in a state of salvation [quicunque vult salvus esse] must thus think of the Trinity.”
In the English and most other Anglican Articles of Religion the Quicunque Vult, otherwise known as the Athanasian Creed (though it was not written by St. Athanasius) appears beside the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds in Article 8. “They ought most thoroughly to be received and believed, for they may be proved by most certain warrants of Holy Scripture.”
9. Explain the Trinity so that a child can understand it.
10. Explain the Trinity in simple layman’s language.
It is impossible to explain the doctrine of the Trinity. There is a legend that St. Augustine, one of the greatest Christian thinkers who have ever lived, was thinking out his book on the Trinity when he saw a boy pouring water out of a bucket into a hole in the seashore. On being asked what he was doing the boy said, “I am emptying the sea into this hole.” “How can you expect,” asked St. Augustine, “to empty the sea?” “And how can you,” said the boy, “with your human mind, expect to understand the mystery of the Trinity?”
The best way to teach the doctrine of the Trinity is this: God is love, He must therefore have someone to love. Before the world was made, before angels and men were created, who was there for Him to love? The revealed doctrine of the Trinity, which we could never have discovered for ourselves, gives the answer. God has an object of love within His own being: from all eternity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit have loved one another.
But we must not think that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are three separate individuals. There is one God, not three Gods. They have one Essence, one Nature, one Character. The word “person,” which is a bad translation of the Greek word “hypostasis,” is perhaps best interpreted as “center of consciousness.” God the Father created us through His Word. That Word, or Son, took human nature as Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit was sent to guide the Church, and it is He with Whom we have now to do.
11. Are there occasions for prayer to God the Father and others for prayer to our Lord Jesus Christ? Or, as there is but one God, does it make no difference?
Liturgical or public prayer is usually, but not always, to the Father through the Son. Prayer to the Son or to the Holy Spirit, or to the Holy Trinity, is right also. See the first four petitions in the Litany of the Prayer Book and the lesser Litany – “Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy” – addressed respectively to the Three Persons. In private prayer, any one Person may be addressed, or all Three together. If prayer is directed to the Father or to the Holy Spirit, it must be “through Jesus Christ.” We may not pray to God without mentioning Jesus Christ, but we must take care not to pray exclusively to Jesus Christ and not to neglect the Holy Spirit, Who is equal to the other Two. We must never address our prayers to anyone but God; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
12. How much can the Church know about the Holy Trinity? Can the Trinity be defined?
The Church can only know what God has revealed about Himself, as recorded in Holy Scripture, and deduced from Scripture by the Church, with universal agreement. The definitions in the Creeds and the decrees of the Councils are intended to warn us against one-sided conceptions of the Holy Trinity which represent falsely what has been revealed.
13. How does free will operate in the face of omnipotence?
This is a mystery about which speculation is futile. Milton describes the devils in hell as engaged in endless and useless arguments about it (Paradise Lost, Book II, lines 557–65).
Others apart sat on a Hill retir’d,
In thoughts more elevate, and reason’d high
Of Providence, Foreknowledge, Will, and Fate,
Fixed fate, free will, foreknowledge absolute,
And found no end, in wand’ring mazes lost.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Vain wisdom all, and false philosophy.
All we can say is that God has limited His omnipotence by giving us free will, because He wished that we should love and serve Him freely and should become partakers of the Divine nature (II Peter 1:4).
14. How do you tell your close friends who are pagans that God is worth worshiping?
I assume that by “pagans” is meant “post-Christians” rather than worshipers of false gods (such as Hindus and others), which is the proper meaning of “pagans.” I suppose that the best way is to follow our Lord’s example and teaching as closely as possible, to show that all that is attractive or lovable in you comes from God and from your worship of Him, and to be ready, when opportunity occurs, to explain (without arguing, which is worse than useless) in whom you believe and why.
15. Discuss the difficulty of believing in a personal devil even if one believes in a personal God.
To me there is no difficulty at all. God created the devil, as He created men, good. The devil, like men, rebelled against God. He is simply a wicked spirit with no body, as a bad man is a wicked spirit in a body. God permits the devil to continue to exist just as He permits wicked men to continue to exist. We do not know why, but we suppose that if there were no devils and no wicked men we should not have to endure the temptations which are necessary for the building up of our character. Anyone who has all his life been carefully shielded from all temptations cannot exercise the heroic virtues which God desires to see developed in all of us.
16. Isn’t Christianity a form of self-hypnotism, something you want to believe?
Perhaps it is possible to hypnotize oneself into believing that the Christian religion is true, but such cases must be rare. In any case, such self-hypnotism would lead to believing for the wrong reason, and would not in any way affect the true reasons for believing in Jesus Christ. An American might hypnotize himself into believing that the United States is the greatest, richest, and noblest country in the world. Hypnotism or no hypnotism, the belief might be true all the same.
Great numbers of Christians have not wished to believe. If to be a Christian meant that you were extremely likely to be crucified, torn to pieces by lions, roasted alive, or made to suffer some other form of agonizing death, would you hypnotize yourself into being a Christian? But that has been the fate of many Christians in all ages, from St. Stephen the first Christian martyr to the modern martyrs of Uganda and those murdered by the Mau Mau in our own time. St. Paul certainly had no wish to be a Christian, and when he became one his life was such as few men would envy: “five times received I thirty-nine stripes. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck ...” (II Cor. 11:24–25).
17. What are the promises of Christianity?
These are some of them: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (St. John 10:27–28). “Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, but he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life” (St. Mark 10:29–30). “Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men” (St. Mark 1:17). “He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do ... If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it” (St. John 14:12, 14). “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (I Cor. 2:9).
18. Why is Christianity the best and truest religion, as compared with other great religions?
What are the other great religions? Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and possibly communism.
Judaism is true as far as it goes, but it needs the revelation in Jesus Christ to complete it, as St. Paul discovered. Men found it impossible to keep fully the Law of the Jews; but Christ by His death and resurrection delivered them from the heavy burden of the Law and gave them grace to enable them to keep the even higher standard laid down in His Sermon on the Mount. He gave them the means of reconciliation with God, something that the Old Covenant lacked.
Islam is the religion of the Arab prophet Mohammed, and it teaches that God is an Almighty Sultan, Who destines some men to heaven (a very sensual heaven) and some to hell. This religion sanctions war, slavery, and polygamy. No one rightly trained in the Christian tradition could prefer Mohammed to Christ.
Hinduism is not so much a religion as a vast collection of Indian traditions, many of which are barbarous. It divides men by a system of rigid castes; it requires no definite belief in a personal God, but permits the idolatrous worship of such demons as the lustful Krishna and the murderous Kali; and it offers not eternal life but a series of reincarnations ending in the destruction of personality.
Buddhism is, strictly speaking, not a religion but a philosophy, a way of escape from life, which is regarded as evil. The complete Buddhist must be a monk or a nun; the prize offered to the Buddhist is not eternal life but absorption in an impersonal deity.
Communism, the teaching of Karl Marx based on an obsolete philosophy, is a doctrine of hatred and class war, without God or a future life. In practice this system of thought promotes intolerable tyranny.
The religion of Christ is not just the best religion, it is the only true religion. All that is good and true in the other religions comes from the only true God and is completely fulfilled in Jesus Christ. No founder of any other religion has even claimed to be more than a man or to have risen from the dead; but Jesus Christ is the eternal Word of God, Who became man and died and rose again to save us. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
Every religion must be able to answer three questions: What am I to believe about God? How can I overcome sin? What will become of me after death? The Christian religion gives the only true answers. For the answer to the first question see Question 1. The answer to the second question is: Believe in Jesus Christ, repent of your sins, be united with Him in His Church by Baptism, and with the help of the Holy Spirit you will be able to resist all temptation. The answer to the third question is: Our Saviour has promised to them that love Him and are members of His Church, the resurrection of the body and eternal life (St. John 10:28, 11:25; I Cor. 15:13).
19. When, where, and by what authority was the Nicene Creed issued?
The Nicene Creed was issued, in its original form, by the First General Council of Nicaea (now Isnik) on the Asiatic side of the Bosporus, in the year 325. It ended with the words: “And in the Holy Ghost.” It was an old baptismal creed except for the word translated by: “Being of one substance with the Father.” The new word was used in order to assert clearly that Jesus Christ is God, equal to the Father.
In its present form the Creed was issued by the Fourth General Council of Chalcedon, opposite Constantinople, in 451, except the words “and the Son” (“Who proceedeth from the Father and the Son”) which were added later in Spain, were accepted at Rome in 1014, but have never been recognized by the Eastern Churches. Except for these words, the Nicene Creed is accepted by all parts of the Church.
20. Why may not we Episcopalians believe in reincarnation?
Because there is no evidence for it. To believe that for which there is no evidence is gross superstition. We are told (St. Luke 16:22; Heb. 9:27) that immediately after death judgment is passed upon our actions in this life and we are then sent to wait for the final judgment. We shall not return to this life, and there is no place for reincarnation. For this reason also, no Christian ought to believe in it.
Reincarnation is a theory invented by the ancient Indians, and by Pythagoras in Greece, to account for the fact that good and bad deeds do not always receive their due reward in this life. It was supposed that the good are rewarded and the bad punished by a series of fresh lives on earth. The theory is connected with the Indian belief in karma, the inevitable automatic destiny, which is inconsistent with belief in the sovereign power and love of God. When the disciples of our Saviour asked, “Who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” He rejected the notion that blindness was the punishment for a sin committed in a previous life (St. John 9:3). Indeed it would be contrary to the justice of God to banish a man for a sin which he could not remember and which he could not be shown to have committed. No part of the Church nor any group within the Church has ever taught or permitted the doctrine of reincarnation.
21. I pay my pledge, attend church regularly, and really try; yet illness and financial trouble befall me. It does not seem fair.
22. If God were good and loving, He would not let my child die.
23. What are we to say to the parents of a child who dies by accident, when they ask, “Why did God do this to me?”
24. Why does such a good man have to suffer like that?
25. Why does not God always reward the good and punish the wicked? Why do evil people seem to escape the consequences of their sins?
The problem lying behind all these questions is the subject of the Old Testament Book of Job (which is not history but a problem drama like Hamlet and Lear, though not intended for the stage). Job is a pious, wealthy, popular Arab chief. Satan sneers, “Does Job serve God for nought?” suggesting that Job is pious for what he can get out of it. Job loses all his ten children, all his property and his health; his friends conclude that he must have done something very wicked to be treated in this way. Job insists that he is guiltless; like the asker of Question 21, he does not think it at all fair. He says, “Behold, I cry out of wrong, but I am not heard: I cry aloud, but there is no judgment” (Job 19:7). At last the Lord speaks out of the whirlwind and says, “Who are you to criticize the justice of the Creator?” (Job 40:8) As I read the story, Job is satisfied: he has seen the vision of God and nothing else matters. “I have uttered that I understood not ... I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:3, 5, 6).
But we Christians know more than the writer of the Book of Job knew. He had no clear belief in a future life, but we have been promised eternal life and perfect joy. The wicked are punished and the good are rewarded: if not in this life, then hereafter. “Remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented” (St. Luke 16:25). The bereaved are to remember that God knows the future and that their loved ones may be taken away from the evil to come (I Kings 14:13; II Kings 22:20); in any case, God knows what is best for their children better than they do. Besides, at a deeper level, we who follow Jesus Christ must expect to share His sufferings and carry our cross after Him (St. Matthew 10:38).
26. Why should seventeen people perish in a blizzard and all others survive? Why should a woman suffer for months from cancer, instead of being allowed to die of a heart attack?
Our Lord was asked a similar question (St. Luke 13:1–5) and He refused to answer it. We do not know about our real needs as God does. All such questions take for granted that pain and death are the worst misfortunes but they are not. The worst misfortune, the only permanent injury, is separation from God and the sin that leads to this. Pain and death are to be avoided, for ourselves and for one another. Our Lord healed the sick and raised Lazarus from the dead, but both pain and death may bring us to God. “Nearer, my God, to Thee, e’en though it be a cross that raiseth me.” Our Lord Himself, as Man, learned “obedience by the things which he suffered” (Heb. 5:8); and no human being is complete without suffering of some kind, as our own experience shows. A long painful illness has sometimes brought to God people who had never thought about Him before.
Death is often a blessed release. St. Paul wrote, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21), when his death by the sword of the executioner was drawing near. “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. ... Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (II Tim. 4:6–8). The poet Tennyson, when in old age he was told by the doctor that he was soon going to die, answered, “Death, that’s good.”
26a. What about death being predestined? Is it true that “he won’t die till his time’s up”?
It is true that God has appointed the time of our death, but it is also true that He has given us free will, by which we can, to a limited degree, interfere with His purpose. If I were so foolish and wicked as to kill myself, or if someone were to murder me, I might die before God intended me to die. Nevertheless, He overrules man’s wickedness for good, as He overruled the treason of Judas Iscariot for the salvation of mankind.
27. Are not all religions going in the same direction? What difference does it make what God you worship?
All religions are not going in the same direction (see Question 18). The inquirer seems to be suffering from the common delusion that the chief purpose of religion is to help us to be good. The chief purpose of religion is to worship and glorify God. We cannot do this unless, by His help, we are trying to be good, but being good is the means, not the end. Different religions teach very different notions of what being good is, and they have quite different moral ideals.
But if, as we believe, the God Who revealed Himself to the writers of the Bible is the true God, He has laid down as His first commandment, “I am the Lord thy God ... Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Ex. 20:2, 3). To disobey this commandment is one of the greatest of sins, and will certainly lead to disaster sooner or later. Conduct depends largely on belief, even in earthly affairs. The American Civil War, for instance, was caused by a difference of belief about the relation of the states to the Union, and about slavery. It cannot be too strongly emphasized that what we do and how we behave depend very largely on what we really believe (though not necessarily on what we say, or even think, we believe). If you worship a devil you will behave like a devil. If you worship the God Who is revealed in Jesus Christ you will try to obey Jesus Christ and be like Him. The difference will be immediately observed by all your neighbors.
Chapter Two – Jesus Christ
28. Was Jesus really Divine?
Yes. He is “God of God, Light of Light, Very God of very God; Begotten, not made; Being of one substance with the Father; by [that is, through] whom all things were made” [Nicene Creed]. “The right faith is, that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man: God, of the substance of His Father, begotten before the worlds; and Man, of the substance of His mother, born in the world; perfect God and perfect Man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting; equal to the Father, as touching His Godhead, and inferior to the Father as touching His Manhood. Who, although He be God and Man, yet He is not two, but one Christ: One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking of the Manhood into God” (Quicunque Vult, or Athanasian Creed).
Every part of the New Testament bears witness to this doctrine. Among many passages that might be cited are the following: “God sent forth his Son” (Gal. 4:4). “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord [that is, the God of Israel] Jesus ... thou shalt be saved” (Rom: 10:9). “There is ... one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him” (I Cor. 8:6). “Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: for through him were all things created” (Col. 1:15, 16). “All things are delivered to me by my Father: and no man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father; neither knoweth any man who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son willeth to reveal him” (St. Matthew 11:27; St. Luke 10:22). “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (St. Mark 1:1). “The high priest ... said unto Him, Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed? [i.e., God] And Jesus said, I am” (St. Mark 14:61, 62). “The Word was God” (St. John 1:1). “The Word became flesh’ (St. John 1:14). “Before Abraham was, I am” (St. John 8:58). “I and my Father are one” (St. John 10:30). “Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God. Jesus answered, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed” (St. John 20:28, 29). “Feed the church of God, which He purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28 – this is the true reading). “Unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever (Heb. 1:8 – see the whole chapter). “Jesus Christ ... is on the right hand of God” (I Peter 3:22). “A servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (James 1:1). “I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, and have the keys of hell and of death” (Rev. 1:17, 18). “The Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it” (Rev. 21:22).
29. Christ was one of the finest men that ever lived, but how can you prove such a weird statement as that He was the Son of God?
It is more than “weird”; it is the most astounding thing that ever happened. If you believe the New Testament when it tells us what sort of man He was, you must also believe it when it tells us that He was more than man. If He had been only a man, even though He had been a great prophet, He would not have been our Saviour; yet that is what Christians have always believed, and it is impossible to explain the Christian religion apart from this belief.
It must be understood that the word “son” is not used here in a physical sense. God is pure spirit – He has no body. We have to use human language when speaking about Divine things, and our words must not be pressed literally. The son of a man is a man – he has the nature of his father. The Son of God is God – He has the nature of His Father; He was not created but was eternally begotten. This is a mystery which we, being finite beings, cannot expect to understand. We have to believe God’s revealed word.
No mere man, however great and good, could have said, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly of heart” (St. Matthew 11:29), without showing that he was not humble and that he was making false claims. No man, who was only man, would claim to be the future judge of all nations (St. Matthew 25:31–46) unless he was mad. And it is quite certain that Jesus Christ was not mad. No man, if he had been only man, could have risen from the dead or even claimed to have done so, and yet the central point of the Apostles’ preaching was that Jesus is the Christ, because He has risen from the dead, and they claim to have seen Him after He had risen (Acts 2:32, 3:15, 4:10, 10:41, 13:30, 17:31, 26:23; I Cor. 15:4, 17, etc.). No such claim has been made for any other man. If He did not rise from the dead, it is impossible to explain the empty tomb, the rise of the Christian Church, or the observance of the Lord’s Day (Sunday, not Friday, the day of His death).
No other man has claimed to be without sin. Jesus Christ did make this claim, and His disciples, who knew Him well, accepted His claim (St. John 8:7, 46; Heb. 4:15). Even if His claim had been true and He had been only a man, it would not have been modest to make it; a mere man who claimed to be sinless would refute his own claim just by making it. The whole description of our Lord in the New Testament makes no sense unless His claim to be God is true. This is the fundamental doctrine of the Christian religion. Unless a man believes that Jesus Christ is God he cannot properly be called a Christian.
Worth while a thousand years of woe
To speak one little word,
If by that “I believe” I own
The Godhead of my Lord.
(F. W. Faber)
30. How could Jesus Christ be God on earth, and then refer to God as His Father and an entirely different person?
See Question 8. Jesus Christ is not an “entirely different person” (in the ordinary, not the technical sense) from the Father. There is only one God. But within the being of the One God there are three distinct “persons” or centers of consciousness, the Father, the Son (Who became man as Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ said, “I and the Father are one.” He allowed St. Thomas to address Him as “My Lord and my God” (St. John 20:28).
31. Is Jesus Christ still existing in His Manhood? Where? How? What does “never to be divided” (Article 2 of the Articles of Religion) mean?
Jesus Christ is still, and forever will be, Man. He ascended into heaven as Man; He is at the right hand of the Father (the position of supreme honor and power – Acts 8:56). [God has no body and, therefore, in the ordinary sense, no hand.] It is because Man is on the throne of heaven (Heb. 8:1) that we have such confidence in His sympathy (Heb. 4:15).
Our fellow sufferer still retains
A fellow-feeling of our pains
And still remembers in the skies
His tears, His agonies, and cries.
With boldness therefore at the throne
Let us make all our sorrows known,
And ask the aid of heavenly power
To help us in the evil hour.
“Never to be divided” means that our Lord’s Divine nature and His human nature will remain united in one Person to all eternity.
32. Explain the difference between the Incarnate God-Man and Jesus Christ the Son-God.
There is no difference. God the Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, became Man, that is, He became incarnate. His human name is Jesus; His human title is Christ. He is “God, of the Substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and Man, of the substance of His mother, born in the world; perfect God and perfect Man; not two but one Christ” (Athanasian Creed).
33. Is my reasoning correct regarding the Father-Son relationship of God and Jesus? (A long confused statement follows, which it would be unkind to reproduce.)
God the Father and God the Son are one God. God the Son was eternally begotten by the Father: “He was in the beginning with God” (St. John 1:2). He did not become the Son when He became Man; He was always the Son. He took human nature, which was created by His Father. His Divine nature was uncreated. He is one Person with two natures. We are God’s children by adoption, whereas He is the Son of God by nature. Therefore He said, “I ascend unto my God and your God.” In the Lord’s Prayer Jesus Christ tells His disciples to say “Our Father” because they are disciples. He never joins Himself with them in saying “Our Father”: for He is God’s Son in one sense and the disciples are God’s children in another sense. We are created by God, not begotten by Him; when we were baptized we became His children by adoption. Thus our Catechism says, “My Baptism wherein I was made ... the child of God.” St. Paul says that we are adopted as sons of God because of Jesus Christ (Gal. 4:6; Eph. 1:5). The only place in the New Testament where men as men are called the offspring of God is Acts 17:28, where St. Paul is quoting a heathen poet in order to persuade the philosophers of Athens to listen to the gospel.
34. How do we reconcile the statement that Jesus is our only Mediator and Advocate with the fact that the Father and the Son are one? How can God intercede with Himself?
See Question 8. The Father and the Son are one in Being (Substance), but they are personally distinct. We find our Lord constantly praying to His Father; He tells us that the Father loves the Son. The Father is not Man; He did not take to Himself human nature. The Son is Man; He was born and suffered and died. He is therefore the Mediator between God and man because He is perfect God and perfect man.
35. If Christ died to save sinners, what of all those who died before He became man?
He died for them as well as for us – for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as well as for the Apostles. He said, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad” (St. John 8:56). He died also for the heathen. In St. Matthew 25:31–46 He foretells that He will judge all nations, most of which have never known anything about Him; and will say to those who have acted according to the light they had, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” But no one can obtain salvation by any other means than by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, for there is “none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
36. What is the answer to the comment, Islam, Buddhism, etc., also have very high moral and ethical standards, therefore why should we try to convert Moslems or Buddhists to Christ?
The assumption made by this comment (it is found in many other questions too) is that the purpose of religion, perhaps its only purpose, is to produce a high moral standard. This assumption (called “moralism”) is false and pernicious. The purpose of our religion is to do the will of God and promote His glory. We cannot do His will or promote His glory unless we are trying with His help to obey His command “Be ye perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect” (St. Matthew 5:48). Only those who are pure in heart will see God. But morality is the means, not the end. We can only come to God, to do His will or promote His glory, through Jesus Christ. It is only the Holy Spirit sent forth by the Father through the Son Who gives us the power to resist the Devil and to serve God. No other religion even claims to do so.
The moral standard of Islam, laid down once and for all in the Koran, which was an advance for the heathen Arabs in the seventh century, cannot be regarded by Christians as a satisfactory substitute for the teaching of our Lord. Mohammed believed in God as the almighty Creator, not as a loving Father. He also believed that God sends some men to heaven and others to hell simply because He chooses to do so. Moslems are commanded to make war on all non-Moslems: to kill those who worship idols, and to offer to those who believe in one God and have a sacred book the choice between death, conversion to Islam, and total submission to Moslem overlords. Each Moslem may have four wives, whom he may divorce (on certain conditions) at his pleasure, and as many concubines as he wishes. There is no equality between men and women, or between Moslems and non-Moslems. No non-Moslem man may marry a Moslem wife, but a Moslem man may marry non-Moslem wives. No Moslem may reject the Moslem religion on pain of death. Islam is a religion very well suited to the wishes of fallen man, especially in Asia and Africa; but it has not, and does not claim to have, Divine grace to enable the believer to overcome all temptation.
Buddhism, strictly speaking, is a philosophy rather than a religion. The Buddha regarded life as misery because it was full of desire. He claimed to have discovered the Noble Path by which men could overcome desire and get rid of life. Buddhism does not include any belief in God or in human personality. The really good Buddhist must be, or become, a monk or a nun; only by following the prescribed moral course (which has many admirable features, it is true) may he at last attain to Nirvana, which means absorption into the Infinite. There are several different kinds of Buddhism, some of which include features that have probably been derived from Asiatic Christianity. But in general the Buddha claimed to deliver men from life, while Jesus Christ came that men might have more abundant life (St. John 10:10).
Neither Islam nor Buddhism provides any satisfactory substitute for Christian morals or any means by which their followers may be helped to attain their ideal. But we do not merely preach Christianity as a system; we preach Jesus Christ as the Saviour of all mankind, for whom there cannot be any substitute.
37. What doctrine of the Atonement does the Anglican Communion celebrate?
The Anglican Communion has no doctrine peculiar to itself on this or, for that matter, on any other subject. The Catholic Church, of which the Anglican Communion is a part, has never defined the doctrine of the Atonement nor does Holy Scripture appear to provide the means for doing so. The Church and the Bible alike teach that the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ deliver us from sin and its consequences and reconcile us to God, but they do not say how. Many theories have been put forward, but they cannot be discussed here.
38. What is the Atonement? How can we explain, in twentieth-century language, the meaning of the Atonement?
Atonement is at-one-ment, reconciliation of man to God. God made man “very good” (Gen. 1:31): why, then, does man need to be reconciled to God? Because of the Fall. Unless we accept the doctrine of the Fall with all our hearts we cannot believe the doctrine of the Atonement, which is the heart of the Christian gospel.
God gave the human race a limited power of free will. If He had not given us this power of choosing between right and wrong, there would be no morality nor virtue. Man used the power to disobey God. How or when this happened we do not know, and probably never shall know. The story in Genesis 3 about Adam and Eve and the serpent describes the Fall in the form of an allegory or myth. This story is not history and was never intended to be taken as history.
There is no suggestion in Genesis that the serpent which tempted Eve was the Devil. It was a snake, the first snake. The Hebrews knew as well as we do that snakes cannot speak like men. Of course God could, by a miracle, make a snake speak; but would He do so in order to destroy His own work? The tree of the knowledge of good and evil is not to be found in the garden or in a book of botany; it is an allegorical tree. The story is an origin-myth, the sort of story found among all primitive peoples. The inspired biblical writer has made of it a story which conveys the profound truth of the Fall of Man. There is no more striking case of Divine inspiration, and no chapter in the Old Testament is more important or more necessary than this third chapter of Genesis.
St. Paul tells us that man not only disobeyed God but passed on to his descendants a tendency to prefer evil to good. This is not only revealed biblical truth but a fact of experience. We all know that from our earliest childhood we find it easier to do evil than good, to disobey God rather than to obey Him. This tendency to evil is called by theologians “original sin.” It is common to all races of men, the civilized and the savage alike. It produces, unless it is checked by Divine grace, actual sin, which is the chief source of all the troubles of mankind. Disobedience, selfishness, lack of love, these are found in all men, both as individuals and as societies.
This doctrine is particularly hard for people nowadays to accept because, for two hundred years, liberals and “progressive” people have been telling us that there is nothing wrong with human nature, that the troubles of man come not from him but from his environment, and that this doctrine of original sin is a fiction. Our Lord Himself taught us that what defiles a man is not what goes into him, not his environment, but what comes out of him, that is, the evil in his will (St. Matthew 15:17, 18). Reinhold Niebuhr has given us in our generation the lesson so loudly proclaimed by St. Paul and revived by Luther: that our nature is corrupt and that we are saved by Divine grace alone. “By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8).
God made man for union with Himself; but man cannot be united to God as long as he is sinful. Therefore man needs to be reconciled to God. But man does not usually even want to be reconciled to God; he is so corrupt that by himself, without Divine grace, he does not want to be holy. God will not take away man’s power of choice, for then he would cease to be man and would become only a thing. If man is to be united with God he must be changed. He cannot change himself and, if he could, he would not want to change.
What, then, did God do? In spite of everything God still loved His human creatures, corrupt as they were. (How corrupt, you have only to read the story of the Greeks, or the Romans, or even the Jews in the time of Herod – peoples that were on the whole better than the Babylonians, the Carthaginians, and other nations, to get some slight idea.)
God the Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, took human nature, was born as a baby, and lived as a man. He suffered the most cruel of deaths then known, and He rose from the dead. By rising from the dead He broke the power of the Devil over mankind; He won a great and final victory in the unseen world. Men had by their own fault placed themselves under the power of the Devil; how strong that power is, even now, any missionary with experience in a heathen country will tell you. The first thing, then, that our Saviour did, out of sheer love and at a terrible cost to Himself, was to break the power of the Devil. The final victory was won on the first Easter Day; all that followed may be described as “mopping-up operations.” That is why every sermon of St. Peter and of St. Paul led up to the good news of the Resurrection (Acts 2:24, 3:15, 5:31, 10:40, 13:30, 17:31, 26:23); that is why St. Paul wrote, “If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain (I Cor. 15:14, 17); that is why Easter Day is the greatest festival of the year, and why the Church keeps the Lord’s Day every week as a memorial of the Resurrection.
But men still had to be told the good news, which is what the word “gospel” means. The disciples, therefore, were commanded to proclaim it to all nations (St. Matthew 28:19; Acts 26:23). Since not all men will believe the good news (or even that it is good), but prefer to remain bound by pride and hatred, covetousness and lust, the Church is commissioned to persuade men to accept the Gospel.
Even when a man has accepted the Gospel he still has to be restored to spiritual health. Therefore our Saviour allows each one of us to share in His risen life by means of Baptism, which makes us members of His Body the Church. The new risen life, what St. Paul calls “the new man,” gradually takes the place of the old corrupt life which we had before. This process begins at our Baptism. God the Holy Spirit, Whom our Saviour has sent into the world, is the Agent of this process. It is He Who, through the sacraments and other means of grace, builds us up in the new life both here and hereafter, until at last we shall be fit to come into the presence of God. All this is part of the Atonement.
There are other aspects of the Atonement which we cannot discuss here. There is the cosmic aspect – our Saviour died and rose again to free not only mankind but the whole material universe. There is His function as High Priest, to offer His sacrifice of perfect obedience to the Father. There is His function as the Second Adam, the Head and representation of all humanity. And there are other aspects.
But there are two beliefs about the Atonement which we must firmly reject. Some people think that our Lord died merely to set us a good example and to move us to follow that example. He certainly did this, but it is by no means the whole of what He did. Those who think that this is all the Atonement means ignore most of the New Testament, such as St. Mark 10:45; Gal. 1:4; I Cor. 15:3; or Heb. 5:9, and cut the heart out of the gospel. Other people think that Jesus Christ died as a substitute for us; that someone had to be punished, and God the Father was willing to punish Him, Who was innocent, in place of us who were guilty. There is no basis in the New Testament for this doctrine, which would make God out to be a monster of cruelty and injustice. There is no difference in character between the Father and the Son. They are one God, one in character, and God is love. God did not need to be reconciled to man; it was man who had to be reconciled to God, and the Atonement is wholly the work of Divine Love.
39. What do doubts about the historic Person of Jesus say to our faith in Him as our Saviour?
There are no historic doubts about Jesus Christ that need be taken seriously. The theory that He never existed, for example, has been entirely discredited. If He really had never existed, the Christian religion would be false, for it is a historic religion like the religion of Israel out of which it sprang; it rests on certain historic facts and a certain interpretation of them. Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God: He was born of a Virgin, was crucified, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven. If we did not believe this we could not trust in Him as our Saviour.
40. Is belief in the Virgin Birth of Jesus necessary to salvation according to the teaching of the Episcopal Church?
Yes; and not only of the Episcopal Church but of the whole Catholic Church of which it is a part. The doctrine of the Virgin Birth is an article of the Creed. Every person who is baptized or confirmed has to affirm (if an infant, through sponsors): “I believe all the Articles of the Christian Faith, as contained in the Apostles’ Creed.” When we go to the Holy Communion we are required to recite the Nicene Creed, of which this article is a part. The Virgin Birth may be proved by most certain warrants of Holy Scripture (St. Matthew 1:20; St. Luke 1:35), as Article 8 of the Articles of Religion says. This belief has always been held by all parts of the Church. The two passages mentioned are both extremely early, for they were written while the Church was still Jewish, which it ceased to be within one generation. As Archbishop William Temple wrote, the difficulties which some people find in accepting the Virgin Birth are not put forward on historical grounds, but because of a materialistic philosophy. The historical evidence is sufficient and it is supported by theological considerations. Those who deny that God can work a miracle cannot accept the Virgin Birth, which was a miracle, and unique. Only once did God take human nature. Jesus Christ, unlike all other men, had existed from all eternity in heaven. He was free from the tendency to sin which the rest of us inherit, for otherwise He could not have saved us from sin. Therefore His birth had to be unique. Those who have adopted a philosophy which conflicts with the revealed Christian Faith must change their philosophy if they wish to be Christians.
41. How can the Church permit the clergy to believe or not believe in the Virgin Birth?
The Church does not permit this. The Virgin Birth of our Lord Jesus Christ is an article of the Creed and is proved by most certain warrants of Holy Scripture. Every priest at his ordination solemnly promises “to banish and drive away all erroneous and strange doctrines contrary to God’s Word.” Denial of the Virgin Birth is certainly such an erroneous doctrine. The priest is further bound to recite the Apostles’ Creed on Sundays in public; to require of everybody whom he baptizes, or presents for Confirmation, to say of the Creed, “I believe all the Articles of the Christian Faith, as contained in the Apostles’ Creed”; to “minister the doctrine and sacraments and the discipline of Christ,” and to “teach the people committed to his cure and charge with all diligence to keep and observe the same.” These are the conditions on which he was ordained; these are a necessary part of what he is paid to do. (The English clergy are bound to recite the offices of Morning and Evening Prayer daily; for the American clergy this is a moral rather than a legal obligation.)
It is a dishonest quibble to pretend that “born of the Virgin Mary” does not mean what it says. That our Lord was born of a woman does not need to be stated in the Creed; this article is placed there to protect the doctrine that His mother was a virgin, that He had no human father. The priest who doubts or denies the Virgin Birth cannot honestly or wholeheartedly teach it to his people, as he is bound by his ordination vows to do. He should consider the grounds on which he denies it and whether he really thinks that he is wiser than the Universal Church with all its saints and scholars, past and present. If he still cannot in conscience say that he accepts the Virgin Birth, the only honest course for him is to give up his office as a teacher in the Church and retire into lay communion (if his conscience will permit it) and seek some other means of earning his living. (I do not think that he ought to seek a position in the ministry of some sect that does not require its ministers to accept the doctrine of the Virgin Birth. To do so would only be adding schism to heresy.)
If a disbelieving priest refuses to take this course he renders himself liable to prosecution for heresy. In English-speaking countries such trials do much more harm than good, partly because of the publicity they receive in the public press and partly because the majority of the people (as these questions show) think that religion is entirely the concern of the individual and therefore that heresy is meaningless, while a man deprived of his post for heresy is regarded as a hero and a martyr. For these reasons bishops avoid at almost any cost prosecuting anyone for heresy. Still, we can only regard with disgust and abhorrence a priest who refuses to observe the conditions on which he was ordained and to fulfill the duties of a teacher commissioned by the Church to teach, not his own opinions but the doctrine and practice which the Church sent him to teach in its name. The faithful should, as far as they can, refuse to attend his ministrations.
42. How do you reconcile the Virgin Birth with the references to St. Joseph as the father of Jesus?
The Jews had no surnames – a man was known by his own name and his father’s name. Officially our Lord was “Jesus the son of Joseph,” just as St. Peter was “Simon the son of Jonas.” The true story of our Lord’s birth must have been concealed, during His own lifetime on earth and during His mother’s lifetime, from all those who did not know that He was the Son of God. If any of these had known about it they would not have been able to believe it. Even His stepbrothers, the sons of St. Joseph by a previous wife, can hardly have known it, for “even his brethren did not believe on him” (St. John 7:5) (see Question 97)
The genealogy in St. Matthew (1:16) reads: “Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.” Our Lord was not physically the son of David, but He was legally a member of the house of David because in Jewish, as in English, law the son of a married woman was legally the son of her husband, unless the husband formally declared that he was not the father, which St. Joseph clearly did not do. The genealogy in St. Luke (3:23) reads: “Jesus ... being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph.” In St. Luke 2:33, 48, St. Joseph is spoken of as His father, that is, stepfather, which was a common usage then as it is now. In the latter passage our Lord, referring to God as His Father, reminds His mother and St. Joseph that His real and only Father was God.
In St. Luke 4:22 the people of Nazareth ask, “Is not this the son of Joseph?” That was the title by which they had known Him from boyhood; the secret of the Virgin Birth was kept hidden from the neighbors. St. Matthew 13:55 (“Is not this the carpenter’s son?” or “the carpenter”) and St. John 6:42 (“Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?”) are to be explained in the same way, the latter with a touch of the irony characteristic of St. John. In St. John 1:45, St. Philip says, “We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” This was the only way in which he could have described our Lord; he had only just joined the band of disciples and cannot have known the secret of the Virgin Birth.
43. What is the teaching of the Church on the Virgin Birth? The report of the Archbishops Committee on Christian Doctrines seems ambiguous.
Archbishop Davidson, who was not a theologian, appointed the Committee entirely on his own authority. It contained at least one member who was notoriously unorthodox on the subject. The report was never accepted by the English Provincial Synods or by the authority of any other part of the Church. Some of its conclusions are valuable, but on this subject it carries no weight at all. The teaching of the Church is, as it has always been, that when our Lord was born His mother was a virgin and that this is an article of faith, to be thoroughly received by all members of the Church as a condition of their membership.
44. Is not the doctrine of the Virgin Birth of the Deity common to several religions?
This subject was examined thoroughly by a German scholar named Lobstein, who did not himself believe in the Virgin Birth. In his book, which I have read, he searches all the religions of the world, ancient and modern, for parallels to the Virgin Birth. There are plenty of stories, some of them very unpleasant, of heroes who were the offspring of a god in human shape and a mortal woman. But the only case of a hero who was said to be born of a virgin occurs in a very late legend about the Buddha, a legend which is almost certainly due to Christian influence. In the original story of Sakyamuni, the Buddha (an Indian prince of the sixth century before Christ), he was born of two human parents in the ordinary manner.
The story of the Virgin Birth as told in the Gospels, if it were not true, could only have come from a Jewish or a Gentile source. The Jews did not admire virginity; they regarded it as a misfortune, not as worthy of honor. The Gentiles had no stories of virgin births, and if they had had any, the pious Jews from whom the story in the Gospels came would have regarded such tales as heathen abominations.
45. Was the Transfiguration necessary for our Lord as well as for the Apostles?
We do not know. Our Lord’s human nature had the same weakness as ours, as far as it was not caused by sin. Perhaps His human nature needed to be strengthened before His passion. However, such a thing is not even suggested in the Gospels.
46. What is the best answer to give to those who deny our Lord’s resurrection?
That depends upon the grounds on which they deny it. If they deny it on historical grounds, and are capable of weighing historical evidence (few people are), they should be shown that there are four independent contemporary accounts, St. Paul’s, St. Mark’s (on which St. Matthew’s is based), St. Luke’s, and St. John’s; that it is impossible on any other assumption to explain why the tomb was empty; that St. Paul writes of more than 500 persons, at the time he wrote, who had seen the risen Lord (I Cor. 15:6); that we cannot explain why the group of terrified or despairing disciples, after their Master’s crucifixion, should have defied the Jewish Sanhedrin and grown into a world-wide Church, unless something very extraordinary had occurred; that if the story of the Resurrection had been a fiction or a mistake, the disciples would not have continued to proclaim it publicly at the risk of losing their lives, a loss that actually took place in many cases; that we cannot even account for the universal Christian observance of the first instead of the sixth day of the week, except as the commemoration of the Resurrection. Such an objector should be asked to read Morison’s book, Who Moved the Stone?
If, however, the objection is that miracles do not happen, the objector should be asked how he knows that. The theory that miracles cannot occur is overthrown by sufficient evidence for even one miracle. If he believes in God he must believe that God created the universe; if God created the universe He could raise a man from the dead. If the objector does not believe in God, it is useless to try to persuade him to believe in the Resurrection. Something more than argument is needed:
He that complies against his will
Is of his own opinion still.
If Jesus Christ really rose from the dead, the Christian religion is true, with consequences for the objector to which he may not be willing to submit. As a great and holy man once wrote: “It was not God’s Will to save His people by argument.” The objector also needs the will to believe, and faith in Jesus Christ; this is a gift which only God can give, and without which the most overwhelming evidence will not convince.
Chapter Three – The Holy Spirit
47. Our priest says we should always pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. I don’t know what he is talking about. What is the Holy Spirit?
48. What is the relation of the Holy Spirit to the Trinity and to the Church?
The Holy Spirit, the Holy Ghost, the Giver of Life, the Paraclete (Advocate or Comforter) – these are some of His titles – is God, the Third Person of the Trinity; He is equal to the Father and the Son, and with Them is worshiped and glorified. From all eternity He proceedeth from the Father through the Son. He inspired the prophets and all other writers of Holy Scripture. He gave to the Blessed Virgin Mary the power to bear her Son, the Word of God. He descended upon that Son at His baptism, giving to His human nature the strength needed for His ministry on earth. After our Lord’s ascension into heaven, the Holy Spirit was sent forth to the Apostles and the other disciples, and He has directed the Church ever since as the true Vicar or Representative of Christ on earth. That is why the Church is more than a human society, why it is the principal means by which the Holy Spirit works among men. He guides the Church into all truth (St. John 16:13), especially when councils of bishops meet and are willing (though they are not always willing) to listen to His voice. He dwells in the body of every baptized Christian as in a temple (I Cor 3: 16) unless He is driven away by sin. Our Catechism says, “I learn to believe in God the Father, Who hath made me and all the world; and in God the Son, Who hath redeemed me and all mankind; and in God the Holy Ghost, Who sanctifieth me and all the people of God.”
Thus it is God the Holy Spirit with Whom we have direct contact now; Who guides our will, our reason, and our conscience, if we are willing to let Him; Who has provided us with light through the Bible and the Church, and with power through the sacraments. It is He Who gives us the New Birth at our baptism and the sevenfold gift at our confirmation; it is He Who changes the bread and wine that they may become the Body and Blood of Christ, after a heavenly and spiritual manner, for the strengthening and refreshing of our souls. It is the same Holy Spirit Who is given to bishops, priests, and deacons at their ordination to the ministry (St. John 20:22) when the words “Receive the Holy Ghost” are spoken to them. It is He Who conveys Divine power to the bridal couple in Holy Matrimony, to the sinner in Absolution, to the sick in Unction. Whenever we say, “Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy,” the second “Lord have mercy” is addressed to Him.
Our blest Redeemer, ere He breathed
His tender last farewell,
A guide, a comforter bequeathed
With us to dwell.
He came in tongues of living flame [Acts 2:3]
To teach, convince, subdue;
All powerful as the wind He came,
As viewless too
He came sweet influence to impart,
A gracious willing Guest,
Where He can find one humble heart
Wherein to rest.
And every virtue we possess,
And every conquest won,
And every thought of holiness,
Are His alone.
49. Why is the Holy Ghost not the Father of Jesus?
The Father of Jesus Christ is the First Person of the Holy Trinity, not the Third, Who is never given that title. The Holy Ghost gave to the Blessed Virgin power to bear her Son, but not in a physical sense. He did not take a human body as the gods did in the filthy legends of the heathen. The power which He gave was entirely spiritual and miraculous. That is the meaning of the words “conceived by the Holy Ghost.” “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (St. Luke 1:35).
50. Is the Spirit that brooded over the face of the waters the same as the Holy Spirit?
Yes, although the writers of the Old Testament did not yet know that the Spirit of God was personal. In the Old Testament “the Spirit of God,” like “the angel of the Lord,” often simply meant “God”; and certainly did not, in the mind of the writer, mean the Third Person of the Trinity, for that doctrine had not yet been revealed. However, when we Christians read the Old Testament we can see meanings there which the writers of it could not perceive. That is part of the meaning of inspiration. Tertullian, a famous Christian writer of the second century, writing about Genesis 1:2, says that the “Spirit of God” that brooded over the waters at Creation now broods over the water at baptism, which is a new creation; water is the car or chariot of the Holy Ghost.
51. What is the unforgivable sin against the Holy Ghost?
52. I have heard three priests give three different definitions of the unforgivable sin.
“He that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation: because they said, He hath an unclean spirit” (St. Mark 3:29, 30).
The one thing that can be said with confidence about this difficult passage is that anybody who is disturbed because he thinks he may have committed the unforgivable sin has certainly not committed it. If he had he would not worry; he would be perfectly sure that he was right.
Commentators of different schools seem to agree that the sin which has no forgiveness is deliberately to destroy one’s own knowledge of the difference between right and wrong. The Son of God performed works of mercy, which everyone who saw them ought to have known were good and of God; yet some of His critics said that He had a devil and by this means did these works. The unforgivable sin is the sin of those who refuse to admit that their political or religious opponents can be sincere or can do anything right. As long as anyone remains in this state of mind, which may easily harden into a habit, he cannot be forgiven because he cannot repent. Such a man has stifled his conscience and deprived himself of the means of distinguishing right from wrong. A man may be mistaken about the claims of Jesus Christ through ignorance or prejudice, and may still be forgiven, but if he thinks that acts of mercy are really the work of the devil, because they are performed by someone whom he does not like, he is blaspheming against the Holy Ghost. So Isaiah (5:20) says, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”
Chapter Four – Holy Scripture
53. What historical proof have we that no further revelation is necessary, and therefore no addition to the Bible?
There cannot be historical evidence of a negative statement about the future, for historical proof refers only to the past and it is seldom possible to prove a negative.
Since the list, or “canon,” of the books of Scripture was finally closed, about fifteen hundred years ago, it has been agreed by all Christians that nothing can be added to it. The alleged revelations that have appeared, such as the Book of Mormon and Science and Health, cannot be taken seriously and are, in any case, contrary to the existing Scriptures. We cannot say with certainty that God will not make a fresh revelation; but it is so unlikely that He will that for practical purposes we may ignore the possibility. The full revelation of God was given in Jesus Christ and recorded in the New Testament. From time to time prophets arise who proclaim fresh or forgotten aspects of that revelation. We may well believe that God has yet more light to bring forth from His Word.
54. Are the Holy Scriptures the infallible word of God? If so, how should Church tradition be followed when it conflicts with Scripture? (St. Mark 7:1–13)
Only God is infallible. The books of Scripture were produced by human minds and make use of human words; therefore they are not infallible, for nothing human is free from the possibility of mistake. But they are a sufficient guide to God’s revelation (II Peter 1:21). No tradition is to be accepted which is contrary to Scripture and no doctrine is to be regarded as necessary to salvation which cannot be proved from Scripture (see Articles of Religion 20 and 34). It is, however, for the Church, and not for the individual, to decide when a tradition is contrary to Scripture. The traditions of the Church, when they are ancient and widespread, are to be treated with respect (Article 34). No one should judge hastily that such a tradition is contrary to Scripture.
55. How can we reconcile the Christian tradition of the first day of the week as the Sabbath with the Fourth Commandment?
There is no such tradition. The first day of the week is the Lord’s Day, which never had anything to do with the Sabbath. Christians are bound by the moral law of the Hebrews but not by their ceremonial or civil laws (Article 7). This position was decided by the Apostolic Council (Acts 15).
The Ten Commandments in general are part of the moral law which was confirmed and made even stricter by our Lord (St. Matthew 5:17–48). The moral principle of the Fourth Commandment is that there should be one holy day of rest out of seven. But the observance of this rule on the seventh day of the week was part of the ceremonial law (St. Mark 1:17). In the apostolic age Jews who had become Christians continued to keep the Sabbath with the rest of the Jewish ceremonial law (Acts 16:13, 21:20), but Christians who had never been Jews were excused. All Christians, however, observed the Lord’s Day in remembrance of Jesus Christ’s resurrection on that day. That was the day, the first day of the week, on which the Christians assembled to “break bread” (for the Holy Communion) (Acts 20:7; cf. Heb. 10:25 and Rev. 1:10). This Lord’s Day was first a day of worship; and when the Roman Empire became Christian, it was made a legal holiday, in order that Christians might have an opportunity to fulfill their obligation of Eucharistic worship.
The notion, widespread in English-speaking countries, that the Lord’s Day is the Jewish Sabbath, is a mistake made by the Puritans of the sixteenth century. In Latin the first day of the week is Dies Dominica (French “dimanche”), the Lord’s Day; the seventh day is Dies Sabbati (French “samedi”). We are to keep the Lord’s Day, first, by being present at the Holy Eucharist (Holy Communion), then, as far as possible, by avoiding unnecessary work, or causing others to do it; always excepting works of necessity( such as milking cows) and works of mercy (such as tending the sick).
56. What is the basic difference between the Roman Vulgate and the King James Bible?
The Vulgate is the translation of the Bible from the original Hebrew and Greek into Latin, made by St. Jerome (Hieronymus) in 382–404. The King James Bible is the translation from the original Hebrew and Greek into English made by a committee of divines under the direction of King James I (VI of Scotland) in 1611, and is generally known as the “Authorized Version” of the Bible. The chief difference is that the books called Apocrypha are collected together in one place between Malachi and St. Matthew in the King James Bible, but in the Vulgate they are scattered through the Old Testament, and some of them are parts of other books: II Chronicles, Daniel, and Esther. Another difference is that the books of the Old Testament are in a somewhat different order in the Vulgate from that in the King James Bible.
The King James Bible is generally agreed to be the supreme masterpiece of English literature. The Vulgate, considered as literature, though it has many beauties, is on the whole poor Latin. Both translations contain mistakes. The Vulgate regularly reads “do penance,” which does not fairly represent the Greek word; the English Bible reads “repent.” What the Greek really means is a change of heart. In Isaiah 9:3 the King James Bible reads “not increased the joy.” The word “not” is a mistake for “to it,” due to the confusion of two similar Hebrew words. The Psalms in the Vulgate Bible are translated not from the original Hebrew but from a Greek translation of the Hebrew. This makes the Vulgate Psalms very obscure and inaccurate. Coverdale’s version, which we have in the English Prayer Book, was made from this Latin version. Coverdale did not know any Hebrew.
57. What are the criteria for saying that some parts of the Bible are fact and others legend or symbolism?
The ordinary criteria of literary and historical criticism. (To answer the question fully would require a large book.)
The Book of Genesis is based on traditions passed on by word of mouth for centuries. The earlier chapters are almost entirely symbolical, but not the less important for that. The books of Samuel and Kings are historical on the whole, but some parts of them, especially the story of David’s reign, are better history than others; still others, especially the stories about Elisha, are partly legend. The Books of Chronicles present history as the Jews of the third century B.C. thought it must have happened. Some of the books are poetry. Daniel, the Revelation of St. John, and parts of some other books are highly symbolical. The Gospels and Acts are on the whole good contemporary history. The Epistles of St. Paul, except perhaps the Epistles to Timothy and Titus (and Hebrews, which is certainly not by St. Paul), were written or dictated by him. In Galatians 5 there is a passage added by his own hand.
58. Is the image of God (Gen. 1:26) obliterated or blurred? Are “image” and “likeness” different?
The image of God is not obliterated by the Fall. The doctrine that it was obliterated is one of the errors of Calvin. Man is “very far gone from original righteousness” (Article 1), that is, he is very different from what God intended him to be; but man is nevertheless capable of being restored by Divine grace. But the image of God is blurred. Theologians from St. Irenaeus in the second century onward have distinguished between the “image” and the “likeness” of God, but in Hebrew (of which language most of the ancient theologians were ignorant) there is no difference at all. Any distinction must therefore be rejected; image and likeness are the same thing.
59. Are stories such as that of Adam and Eve stories of actual events?
No (see Question 38). The story of Adam and Eve is based on an origin-myth such as is found in all primitive races. It was changed by Divine inspiration into an allegory teaching the Fall of man, a teaching which is of the utmost importance and a necessary part of the Christian Faith.
The story of Cain and Abel seems to be based on the opposition between pastoral nomads (like Abel, who sacrificed a sheep) and settled farmers (like Cain, who offered the produce of his fields) which runs through much of the Old Testament. As we have the story, it is a warning against envy and murder. The story of the Flood is based on a historical event, a flood which covered all of Mesopotamia and of which traces have been found by archaeologists. As we have it, the story is a warning of what happens to men when they neglect God, and it contains several other lessons as well (St. Luke 17:26; Heb. 11:7; I Peter 3:20; II Peter 2:5).
60. How do men come to be of different races and colors if they are all descended from Adam and Eve?
The story of Adam and Eve is not historical. The origin of different races is a question for the anthropologists which we cannot yet answer. We know that man has been on the earth for at least a hundred thousand years, probably much longer. The black skins of some races are certainly caused by the heat of the tropical sun. It is generally agreed that the American Indians came from Asia over the Bering Strait, which may at one time have been closed by a land bridge. The Australian aborigines seem to have come from India at a much more remote period.
61. Whom did Cain and Abel marry?
Cain and Abel were not historical persons, but types of different stages of human progress, both of them quite late (see Question 59). Cain is the typical settled farmer who grows crops; Abel is the typical wandering shepherd. Both types are later than the food-gathering type (like the Australian aborigines) and the hunting type (like the Eskimos).
62. “And there shall be, like people, like priest” (Hos. 4:9). What does this mean? How far is the communicant responsible to and for his priest?
The prophet is denouncing the priests of Samaria and saying that they are no better than their people, to whom they ought to be examples and teachers of the law of God. Instead these priests are idolaters, whoremongers, and drunkards, and it is their fault that their people commit all these sins. These priests were the priests who worshiped the golden calves (I Kings 12:28–31; II Chron. 13:9), but the prophet Jeremiah found the priests at Jerusalem a century later not much better (Jer. 6:13, 23:11). The Christian priest is not the same kind of priest as the Hebrew priests, true or false, under the Old Covenant, but, like them, he is responsible to God for teaching the people God’s Will and setting them a good example.
The communicant is responsible to his priest for listening to and obeying his preaching and teaching, supporting his work with gifts and personal service, and defending him against any slander, injury, or malicious story. He is responsible for paying the stipend of the priest, if required (I Cor. 9), although this may be done through diocesan rather than through parochial channels. The communicant is also responsible for his priest, whose work depends upon the prayers of his people. These should be offered daily. When you wish to criticize bishops, pray for them instead.
63. What is the full meaning of “Be still, and know that I am God”? (Psalm 46:10 )
We cannot expect to know the full meaning of any text of Scripture. The most we can know is what God means us in particular to learn from it. It may have other meanings for other people and other ages. The literal meaning, as intended by the writer of this verse, appears to be that God speaks to the enemies of His people, who are attacking Jerusalem, and says to them: “Stop! let it alone; it is under my protection, and I am God Almighty.”
St. Augustine, the great African bishop (died 430), says: “Be still; like Mary at the Lord’s feet, go with the Hebrews three days’ journey into the solitude, in the contemplation of the Blessed Trinity; like the Apostles, refuse to serve the tables of fleshly appetites, that thou mayest give thyself wholly to the ministry (Sermon on Martha and Mary, see J. M. Neale, Commentary on the Psalms, Vol. 1, p. 110). St. Ambrose says that our Lord is exalted among the heathen, by the preaching of the Cross, and in the earth, that is, the new heaven and the new earth, by His ascension to the right hand of the Father.
64. Was our Lord crucified on Friday? Did He rise again on Sunday? Was that Sabbath a high day? (Our Lord gives it as a proof of His Divinity in St. Matthew 12:40.)
Yes; the day of the Last Supper was Thursday, and the first day of the Passover (St. Mark 14:12). According to St. John (13:1), it was before the Passover. Our Lord was crucified on Friday; the following day was the Sabbath (St. Mark 15:42; St. Luke 23:56; St. John 19:31). He rose from the dead on the first day of the week, which is called the Lord’s Day, and is observed by Christians for that very reason. The sign promised by our Lord in St. Matthew 12:39 is not a sign of His Godhead, but of His resurrection after three days in the grave; that is, part of Friday, all of Saturday, and part of Sunday.
65. Did the miracles, such as the Feeding of the Five Thousand, really happen, or are they mere stories?
The miracles of our Lord really happened; all attempts to strip the miraculous element away from the Gospels have failed. The Feeding of the Five Thousand is related in all the four Gospels. It is true, of course, that some of the miracles related in the Old Testament, especially those of Elijah and Elisha, are probably based on legend.
66. Are persons afflicted by mental disease possessed by devils? If so, why cannot disciples of Christ cast them out? Is there a service for exorcising devils?
There are many kinds of mental disease. It is by no means true that all persons so afflicted are possessed by devils; perhaps some of the persons mentioned in the Bible as possessed by devils were only believed to be so by their neighbors. But possession by devils does sometimes take place. Such possession is rare in Christian countries but common in Africa, India, China, and Melanesia. The disciples of Christ can and do cast out devils. It requires a great deal of faith and prayer to do this, a naturally strong will, and careful training; otherwise it is extremely dangerous (see Acts 19:13). The Reverend Charles Harris, Vicar of South Leigh near Oxford (the parish where John Wesley preached his first sermon), was a well-known theologian and a specialist in casting out devils. He once told me how he had freed from devil-possession, and completely cured, a young man whom the doctors had given up as a hopeless lunatic. (See also Maynard Smith’s Frank [Weston], Bishop of Zanzibar, Chap. 6.) No one should attempt to cast out devils without special training (St. Mark 9:29). I believe there is a service of exorcising in the Roman Ritual but no one is allowed to use it except priests who have received special permission to do so.
67. What is meant by “until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled”? (St. Luke 21:24)
The meaning of this passage is uncertain. The two best explanations are: (1) that “the times of the Gentiles” are the seasons when the Gentiles will be allowed to execute the judgments of God; (2) that these times are the opportunities which the Gentiles will have for possessing the privileges which had been forfeited by the Jews. It is suggested that these opportunities will not last for ever.
68. Was there any special ritual of the scribes at washing hands before meals?
The Jewish scribes had special prayers and thanksgivings provided for almost every act of daily life.
69. Who was St. Paul, anyway?
St. Paul was a wealthy Jew of Tarsus, brought up to speak Aramaic (Phil. 3:5; Acts 21:40) and possessing the rare privilege of Roman citizenship by birth (Acts 22:25–29). He was trained at Jerusalem to be a rabbi, or teacher of the Law; he was a Pharisee and he belonged to the Sanhedrin, or Great Council of the Jews (Acts 26:10). He was active in persecuting Christians and while on his way to Damascus for this purpose was wonderfully converted by a vision of our Lord (Acts 9, 22, 26). He was the “chosen vessel” (Acts 9:15) especially selected by God to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles. It was St. Paul, more than anyone else, who turned the Christian Church from a Jewish sect into a universal religion.
The story of his three missionary journeys is told in Acts 13–21. His great theological task was to work out the doctrine that men are not saved as a reward for doing the commands of the Jewish Law but by the free gift of Divine grace which is given in answer to faith. Through St. Paul’s work members of all nations were allowed to become Christians without submitting to the requirements of the Jewish Law. It seems likely that he must at one time have been married, for otherwise he could not have been a member of the Sanhedrin.
After many sufferings, of which he gives a list in II Corinthians 11:23–27, he was arrested on a charge of bringing Gentiles into the Temple at Jerusalem. Knowing that he had no chance for obtaining justice from the Jews, he appealed to the Roman Emperor. As a Roman citizen he had a right to do this. Consequently, he was sent to Rome as a prisoner, and was shipwrecked at Malta on the way (Acts 27). After two years of imprisonment at Rome, he is believed to have been acquitted of the charge made against him. Some time later he was arrested and then beheaded at Rome. He was, perhaps, the greatest of all Christian teachers and missionaries. Of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament ten are letters written by him and three others (the Epistles to Timothy and Titus) are attributed to him, although scholars are not agreed that he actually wrote them himself.
70. Was St. Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” physical? (II Cor. 12:7)
The “thorn in the flesh,” perhaps better translated “stake in the flesh,” was some intermittent disease from which St. Paul suffered. Sir W. M. Ramsay’s explanation is to me completely convincing: the stake in the flesh was malaria, and the severe headache which malaria brings. St. Paul was first attacked by this at Perga (Acts 13:13), a district heavily infected with malaria. He was compelled to go up into the mountains. At this time John Mark went away just when he was most needed, which made St. Paul very angry (Acts 15:38). He was suffering from malaria when he was at Pisidian Antioch and at Iconium and was first preaching to the Galatians (Gal. 4:13). Later St. Luke went with him on his travels so that he might have a physician always at hand (Acts 20:6; Col. 4:14), and passed himself off as St. Paul’s slave so that he might accompany him to Rome (Acts 27:1), since wealthy prisoners who were Roman citizens were allowed to have two slaves with them (see W. M. Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveller and Roman Citizen).
71. If God’s Will for us is health, why should we pray, “If it be Thy will”?
In general, God’s Will for us is health, but it is not always His will for each one of us. Some people are sick through their own fault or the fault of others. Some people are brought to God through sickness, people who would never have known Him if they had always been well. St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, was converted through a long sickness caused by a wound received in battle; and there are many similar cases.
Chapter Five – Original Sin
72. What is the doctrine of Original Sin?
“Original sin” is the name given by St. Augustine and other ancient Latin writers to the tendency to do evil rather than good, a tendency found in every human being (except our Lord Jesus Christ) and in every corporate society of men. It is not “actual sin,” which is a deliberate act of the human will in disobedience against God; but unless it is stopped, original sin will certainly result in actual sin. St. Paul does not use the phrase “original sin” but he does teach the doctrine in Romans 5:12: “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned ... therefore as by the offence of one judgment carne upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.”
St. Paul and St. Augustine assumed that the story of the Fall, as told in Genesis 3, was historical fact. We cannot now believe this (see Question 60) but the doctrine of the Fall and of Original Sin does not depend upon the belief that Adam was a historical person. The universal tendency of human beings to do evil rather than good is a matter of experience as well as of revelation. Since it is universal, it must be the result of some event in the distant past, an event of which we do not and cannot know anything. The denial of this truth by Rousseau and many others in the past two hundred years has led to the greatest disasters. It has encouraged the delusion that a good time coming may be expected if only we can free mankind from ignorance and prejudice and change its environment. As we might have learned from the Gospel (St. Mark 7:15), the chief troubles of men come not from ignorance nor from defects in their environment, but from the corruption of their own hearts, and that corruption cannot be permanently removed as long as the world lasts. Therefore all hopes of any utopia or millennium in this world, a good time coming, are bound to fail; for if the utopia of the reformers were to come about, it would soon cease to be a utopia, because men will always be subject to original sin. The chief problem of government, as Dr. Niebuhr has shown us, is that men cannot be governed without power, and yet no man, or class, or community, is fit to be trusted with power. Belief in necessary progress and belief that men can be permanently helped by education and science alone, all religious and political optimism, are contrary to the doctrine of Original Sin; and they have been thoroughly refuted by the experience of the past forty years. “The day in whose clear shining light all wrongs shall stand revealed, when justice shall be throned in might and every hurt be healed” is not to be expected in this world, but only in that new heaven and new earth which God is preparing for us when this world shall have ceased to exist (Heb. 11:16; Rev. 21:1).
The only remedy for original sin is the grace of God. Without grace, knowledge and power, education and science, excellent gifts of God in themselves, are much worse than useless. You can be more wicked in a comfortable house with all modern conveniences than if you lived in a cave. You can hurt your neighbors much more effectively with atomic bombs than with a bow and arrows. But the grace of God can overcome everything, if we are willing, at whatever cost to ourselves, to let it have free course.
73. What does the Episcopal Church say about Original Sin?
“Original sin standeth not in [that is, does not consist of] the following of Adam, (as the Pelagians do vainly talk;) but it is the fault and corruption of the Nature of every man ... whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil” (Article 9). This statement is strongly influenced by the teaching of St. Augustine, which is supported by the experience of us all. It is not Calvinistic. “Very far gone from original righteousness” was not sufficient for the Calvinists, whose Westminster Assembly in 1643 rejected this phrase; they preferred “we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil” (Westminster Confession, Article 6).
St. Paul tells us (I Cor. 11:7) that man is the image and glory of God and St. James (3:9) says that man is made after the likeness of God; in spite of the Fall, that image is not entirely destroyed, as Calvin taught. But at the present time the errors of Pelagius are far more dangerous than the opposite errors of Calvin. Pelagius (died about A.D. 418) held that there is no such thing as original sin and no necessity for Divine grace; he taught that without grace a man may, if he chooses, avoid all actual sin. This is the besetting heresy of the English (and, I suspect, of the Americans), which leads them to think that they can live a good life by their own strength; a delusion only too clearly held by many of those who submitted questions for this book. The Episcopal or Anglican tradition is to reject the teaching of both Calvin and Pelagius, as the Bible requires us to do.
74. Explain the concepts of the Old and the New Adam. Explain Genesis 3.
See Questions 59 and 60. Adam and Eve represent the race of men. They were created good by God. He gave them the power to obey Him or to disobey Him, the power of a limited free will. In the story told in Genesis, this truth is represented by the power to obey or disobey God’s command not to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Adam and Eve misuse their power of free will; they eat the fruit; this gives them the knowledge of what it is to be separated from God. They are no longer innocent; they become conscious of sex and are ashamed of being naked. In normal human life man tills the ground and woman bears the children. The Hebrews regarded these labors as the punishment inflicted on man and woman for their disobedience to God. The serpent in Genesis is not the devil (this is a later conception) but simply the first snake, the creature which crawls on the ground and bites the heel of the passer-by. The snake was believed to have been punished in this way for tempting Adam and Eve. The whole story is a legend intended to explain to primitive man the origin of human occupations, of sex, and of the nature of the snake. But the passage “He shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel,” which originally referred to the normal relations between men and snakes, has always been taken by Christians as a prophecy that the devil would bring our Saviour to His death, but that He would, by His resurrection, finally crush the devil’s power.
St. Paul means by the Old Adam the fallen corrupt nature of man apart from grace, and by the New Adam the risen life of our Saviour which is imparted to us at baptism and which gradually overcomes and replaces the old corrupt nature in each of us (Rom. 6:6; I Cor. 15:47). Adam is the Hebrew word for man; it is not a proper name. Hebrew (or Aramaic) was St. Paul’s mother tongue (Phil. 3:5) though he wrote in Greek.
75. What is the soul? Is it the same as the spirit? Is there something Divine in us, as some think?
The word “soul” in the Bible often means simply “life.” When our Lord said, “What shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall he give in exchange for his soul?” He was not referring to the eternal destiny of man, but to his life here on earth (St. Mark 8:36, 37; St. Matthew 16:26). In St. Paul’s epistles “soul” is contrasted with “spirit.” “It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body” (I Cor. 15:44); the word “natural” should be “soulish” if we had such a word; it means connected with earthly life.
But the word “soul” is often used also with the meaning of “spirit,” that part of a man which is not material and which does not die when the body dies. It is this “soul” of the believer to which our Lord promised eternal life (St. John 3:16, 10:28). The Bible does not tell us that the soul or spirit is immortal, as Plato and other Greek philosophers taught; it promises that those who believe in Jesus Christ and are incorporated into Him by Baptism shall have eternal life, not only in the next world but here and now; and that the soul shall receive a new body, a spiritual body, at the final judgment.
Man is made in the image of God, but the opinion that he has in him a spark of the Divine is not Christian and there is no reason for believing it. We are to be made partakers of the Divine nature (II Peter 1:4), but only by union with Christ and His Church.
76. When does a human being receive a soul?
We do not know.
77. Do animals have souls?
We do not know. The Christian tradition teaches that they do not. It is pleasant to think that your pet dog has a soul which will survive death; but are you ready to think that every wolf, every shark, every mosquito has one? If not, there seems to be no place where we can draw a line, and no reason for drawing a line, between one animal and another.
Chapter Six – Grace and Salvation
78. Give a simple definition of grace. Explain “grace of God,’ “state of grace.”
Grace is the favor or kindness of God and this is always its meaning in the New Testament. Later it came to mean also the spiritual power which the favor of God gives us. We cannot do anything good without it and God alone can give it to us. It may also be defined as God the Holy Spirit in action. It is not a substance and there are not different kinds of grace, but grace is given in different ways and for different purposes.
A baptized Christian is said to be in a state of grace when he is trying with all his heart to love and serve and obey God and is not guilty of any unrepented sin. The state of grace normally begins with Baptism. The Prayer Book says that children who die after Baptism, before they have committed any sin, are undoubtedly saved.
79. How does grace work? What is meant by “salvation by grace” and “by grace ye are saved”?
We do not know how grace works (St. John 3:8). But God has given us the means of grace; prayer, the sacraments, reading the Bible, the preaching of His word, etc. If we use these means faithfully we may expect God’s favor and power, although He can and does give us grace apart from them. St. Paul says, “by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8, 9).
We are saved, that is, reconciled to God, not by anything that we are or have or do, but entirely by God’s free gift. St. Paul is claiming that we cannot get salvation for ourselves by keeping the law, as the Jews believed; we must not boast of our good deeds, because it is God Who has given us the wish and the power to do them. English and American people, who are always inclined, as these questions show, to think that they can earn salvation by leading a conventionally “good” life (which is for them what the Law had become for many of the Jews), need to be constantly reminded of St. Paul’s teaching. It was the great work of Martin Luther to bring it once again to men’s minds; but it is held by all orthodox Christians.
80. Is a blessing a means of grace in any way?
To bless God is to praise Him: “O all ye Works of the Lord, bless ye the Lord; praise him, and magnify him for ever.” To bless human beings is to pray that God will give them His favor and help. Priests have to bless their people, especially those who are being married. Parents ought often to bless their children. To bless things (including living animals) is to set them apart for the service of God and to pray that He will use them for His glory. The answer, therefore, is Yes.
81. What is salvation? How is it achieved? Is Christianity the only gate to salvation? What about good pagans, such as Gandhi?
Salvation means to be reconciled to, accepted by, and finally united with God; but “united” does not mean absorbed; we are to remain forever separate persons, to praise God freely, which is the purpose for which we were created.
Those who want salvation must first repent, and this includes sorrow for sin (contrition), confession, and amendment. Secondly, they must believe in Jesus Christ, which means committing themselves, and all that they are and have, entirely to Him. Thirdly, they must be baptized with water in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. This makes them members of Christ’s Church, outside of which, as far as we know, there is no salvation. Finally, they must persevere until death, as faithful members of Christ’s Body. Repentance, faith, Baptism, and perseverance are all His gifts.
There are two stages in salvation: present and final. Those who are living the life of the Church, obeying its rules and using its means of grace, and who are not guilty of any unrepented sin, are said to be in a state of salvation (Church Catechism). This is what the Quicunque Vult means by “Whosoever wishes to be saved,” that is, to be in a state of salvation. We must always be on the watch lest we should fall away from this state. Even St. Paul thought this possible for himself (I Cor. 9:27). Final salvation will be reached when, having lived and died in a state of grace, we shall be acquitted at the Particular Judgment; after which we shall not be subject to temptation (St. Luke 16:19–31). The difference may be illustrated by this allegory: A ship was wrecked and was sinking rapidly. A lifeboat was sent to rescue the crew. Many of them got into the boat, but some remained in the ship and some preferred to swim. Those who were in the boat and some of those who swam reached land safely. The ship with its crew is the race of men. The wreck is the Fall of man. The boat is the Church; those who are in it and remain in it have present salvation but they may fall out of it. Those who have reached the land have final salvation. The allegory is defective because it does not refer to our Lord, to Whose death and resurrection our salvation is entirely due.
Good pagans who have never had a chance to hear the gospel (such as Socrates, Vergil, and the Buddha) will be judged by their use of the opportunities which they have had (St. Matthew 25:31–46). Gandhi was in a different position; he knew the gospel, and rejected it, but we do not know how much blame for his rejection lies at the door of the Christians with whom he was in contact. In any case, he is under God’s judgment, not ours. All who are saved, whatever their history may have been, will have been saved by Christ alone (Acts 4:12).
82. How does the Church interpret personal redemption? How do we know whether we are redeemed? Is individual effort required?
Each one of us, who has repentance and faith and has been baptized, is personally redeemed or “bought back” by the death and resurrection of Christ. We know that God wills all men to be saved (I Tim. 2:4), and if we have obeyed the conditions which He has laid down we trust Him to fulfill His promises. We must do all we can to serve Him; “faith without works is dead” (James 2:26).
83. How does the Episcopal Church differ from and compare with other churches in their teachings of salvation?
I suppose that most of the sects think of salvation as offered to us as separate individuals and do not recognize the necessity for Church membership and for the sacraments. The Roman Communion holds that submission to the Pope is necessary to salvation (Bull of Pope Boniface VIII).
84. If faith without works is dead, what about works without faith? Will salvation come for the very works sake?
Nobody can obtain salvation through works. with or without faith. “By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not f yourselves; it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8, 9).
“For the very works sake” is here quoted out of its proper context. Our Lord asked His disciples to believe in Him, if only because of His miracles which they had seen. The verse has nothing to do with the question.
I rather think that there are no good works without some faith. A deed which appears to be good must be done either for a good or for a bad motive. If the motive is good, there must be some faith in the doer: faith in goodness, even if not faith in God. That faith however imperfect, is the gift of the Holy Spirit. If the motive is bad, the deed is not a good deed. Perhaps this is a possible explanation of the difficult Article 13 with its technical terms taken from medieval theologians.
85. Does it make any difference what you believe, as long as you live a good life?
This question expresses the ancient and widespread error whose classical form is in Pope’s couplet:
For forms and creeds let fools and bigots fight.
He can’t be wrong whose life is in the right.
There are two fallacies here. The first is that we are all agreed about the kind of life that is “good.” But in fact men differ as much about morals as they do about doctrine. Every religion has a different moral system, and every version of the Christian religion has different opinions about morals. Romanists think divorce wicked but gambling permissible. Methodists thing gambling wicked but divorce permissible. The Archbishop of Canterbury, rightly in my opinion, thinks neither divorce nor gambling permissible. One might add to such instances indefinitely.
The second, and more profound, fallacy is that we can lead a “good” life by our own strength. The truth is that we can do nothing that is good without grace; we shall not be given grace unless we pray for it, and use the sacraments and other means of grace, and we cannot pray or use the means of grace without faith.
This question implies far too low a standard. Probably the “good life” means a life conventionally decent. The conventions of our neighbors are for many of us what the Law was for the Pharisees – sufficient, if we observe them, to establish a claim upon God. Our Lord requires of us not conventional decency but perfection (St. Matthew 5:48). he said, “Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven” (St. Mathew 5:20).
What we do depends to a large extent on what we believe. If your belief is false your behavior will be bad. If you believe in Hitler’s God you will behave like Hitler. If you do not believe that there is any life hereafter your conduct will be very different from what it will be if you believe that your conduct here and now will take you to Heaven or to Hell.
Chapter Seven – Free Will and Predestination
86. Why did God give us free will? If He made everything and made it good, how could any evil course present itself?
This is the mystery of the Origin of Evil, which no one has ever been able to solve. All we can say is this: God wished to be served freely; He wished to have love, courage, and all the virtues in His creatures. These virtues could not have existed if there had been no power of choice. Without free will there could be nothing good or holy. Human beings would be things, not persons. But it was God’s Will to have persons as objects of His love.
87. What is predestination? What is the Anglican view of it, as opposed to the Calvinistic view?
The Church teaches that God predestines some men to privileges which are not given to all. The Hebrews were the chosen people; they were united to God by a covenant as the Greeks and Romans, the Indians and the Chinese, were not. This privilege was given to them for the sake of others. God said to Abraham, “In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 22:18; Acts 3:25). Some people have the opportunity of hearing the gospel while others do not. We who have had that opportunity, and have accepted it, are responsible for preaching it to others.
The “elect” are the baptized. “All the elect people of God” means those who have by Baptism been made members of Christ’s Church. “Many are called, but few are chosen.” Only few are chosen because only a few have accepted the call. This is the constant teaching of both the Bible and the Prayer Book. “God will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (I Tim. 2:4). “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (St. John 3:16).
The Calvinistic doctrine is that “by the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life, and others foreordained to everlasting death. Neither are any redeemed by Christ, but the elect only” (Westminster Confession, 1643, Article 3).
88. Discuss clearly and fully election, predestination, and conversion. Has God predestined our actions, thought, and destiny? Does He know what we shall decide tomorrow, whether we shall go to Heaven or Hell?
See Question 87. Conversion is the conscious turning of the will to God. All men are offered salvation, while some men are predestined to privilege for the sake of others. All men are called to conversion, while some men are given the privilege of a special conversion, like St. Paul (Acts 9) and St. Augustine. Conversion requires the cooperation of the will. It must not be confused with regeneration or the New Birth which is given through Baptism, even to unconscious infants.
God has a plan for each of us but He does not compel us to carry it out, for He has given us free will. He wishes all of us to be saved but He does not save us against our will. Our thoughts and actions are not decided entirely by ourselves. “God knows whatever is to happen, but what He knows is determined by what will happen, and not vice versa” (Francis J. Hall, Dogmatic Theology, Vol. 3, p. 285).
89. Is grace irresistible?
No. This was one of the errors of Calvin. If grace were irresistible, God would break our free will, which He never does.
90. Define free will. How does God’s foreknowledge enter into our faith?
Free will is the power to choose between good and evil, between obeying God and disobeying Him. It is limited in many ways. Most attacks on human free will assume that it is supposed to be unlimited. If there were no free will there would be no right or wrong. I do not understand the last sentence. God’s foreknowledge does not alter our faith or our conduct.
91. Christ said, Many are called, but few chosen. Why should I try hard to be good? I may be one of those whom He does not choose.
You are to try to be good, not for your own sake but for His, and you are to seek His help, without which you can do nothing good. If you are not chosen, it is only because you have not accepted His call; the man who would not put on the wedding garment provided for him (St. Matthew 22:11, 12)was called, but it was his own fault that he was not chosen.
92. Explain what the problem of evil is. How does the Church provide an answer that the man in the street can understand?
The problem of evil is the mystery of how there came to be sin in the world which God created good (see Question 86). The Church cannot give an answer to this mystery, for no answer has been revealed.
93. Are there degrees of sin? Is one sin more serious than another in the sight of God?
Yes. Our Lord said to Pilate, “He that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin” (St. John 19:11). In I John 5:16 a distinction is drawn between the sin unto death and the sin not unto death. This is the source of the distinction between mortal and venial sin (roughly, between sins of deliberation and sins of weakness). All sins, however “venial,” are sufficiently serious for us to make every possible effort to avoid them.
94. What is the difference between the Catholic and the Protestant interpretation of justification by Faith?
In place of “Catholic and Protestant” read “Roman and Lutheran.” The placing in opposition of “Catholic” and “Protestant” should always be avoided. The opposite of Catholic is not Protestant but heretical; the opposite of Protestant is not Catholic but Romanist. The Episcopal Church is Catholic. It is also Protestant in the historical use of that term, and, in this sense only, that means non-Roman.
Justification by faith is the teaching of St. Paul (Rom. 5:1, etc.). The Greek word means “accounted righteous,” as Luther held, or, perhaps, “vindicated.” But St. Augustine, who knew little Greek and no Hebrew (the root idea here is Hebrew) thought it meant “made righteous,” and Rome has followed this false translation. “Faith” did not have the same meaning for Luther that it had for his opponents. Neither side understood the other. For Luther, as for St. Paul, the experience that he was justified by faith and did not need to rely on his own good deeds was an overwhelming religious experience. But Luther (and still more his followers) was tempted to think that nothing else was of much importance. He added two further doctrines which are not found in Scripture: the doctrine that Christ’s merits are imputed to us and our sins imputed to Him, and the doctrine that we are accepted by God when we feel “assurance” of it. The Anglican Communion does not accept these doctrines, which the Church has never taught.
The truth for which Luther stood (and we with him) is that salvation is the free gift of God and cannot be earned or “merited.” The truth for which Rome stands is that the act of acceptance by Christ is not the end but the beginning of a long process. Rome includes sanctification in justification, whereas we, with Luther, regard them as separate, but both necessary. The difference is very difficult to explain simply or briefly. There is much more in common between the two sides than either was ready to admit in the age of the Reformation.
95. Why should you complicate the beautiful and simple ethical teachings of Jesus with all the dogma about blood sacrifice and sacraments and ceremonies?
You appear to think that you are wiser than God and know what men need better than He does. The Son of God did not come to give us “beautiful ethical teachings,” which many prophets and sages have done; He came to save us from our sins, which no one else has ever done or even claimed to do. He could do it only by being nailed to a cross. Ethical teaching is useless unless it is put into practice. Even St. Paul found that he could not keep the Law, however hard he tried; still less could he or anyone else live up to the far higher standard of the Sermon on the Mount, which is by no means “simple,” as anyone will discover who seriously tries to obey it. We cannot do anything good without grace; if we think we can “we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (I John 1:8).
We can obtain grace only by means of our Saviour’s death. That is the only “bloody sacrifice” in the Christian religion. Sacraments are the chief means by which we receive grace, and they are “a pledge to assure us thereof” (Church Catechism), that is, we know we have received grace when we have been baptized, or been confirmed, or received the Holy Communion.
The Christian religion is not a philosophy but a way of life. Therefore it requires ceremonies. The vast majority of mankind would rather take part in a ceremony than sit listening to “ethical teaching.” You may have a Puritan background, and prefer sermons to ceremonies; if so, that is your misfortune (like being color-blind or having no sense of humor); and the Church, which provides for everyone, also provides dull services and long sermons for those who like them and are benefited by them.
Chapter Eight – The Blessed Virgin Mary
96. What is the Anglican doctrine about our Lord’s Mother? Is she in glory? Do we pray to her or have pictures and statues of her in the Episcopal Church?
Two doctrines about our Lord’s Mother are proved from Scripture and are binding on all Christians. The first is that when her Son was born she was a virgin, which is an article of the Creed (see Question 40). The second is that she is rightly called Theotòkos (God-bearer), which in the First Prayer Book of 1549 is translated “Mother of our Lord and God Jesus Christ.” This was decided by the General Council of Ephesus (A.D. 431) which was accepted by all the ancient churches and by the chief Reformers. (Even the Church of the East, Assyrian, which did not recognize the decrees of the Council of Ephesus, accepted the Council of Chalcedon, which ratified them.) This means that our Saviour was God from the first moment of His existence as Man.
The ancient Christian writers, from the second century onward, called our Lord’s Mother the “Second Eve.” As in the old story the temptation of Eve led to the fall of Adam, so the acceptance by the Blessed Virgin, the Second Eve, of her call to be the mother of the Second Adam (“Be it unto me according to thy word” – St. Luke 1:38) led to the conquest by the Second Adam of sin and death. As Bishop Ken (d. 1711) wrote:
As Eve, when she her fontal sin reviewed,
Wept for herself, and all she should include,
Blest Mary, with man’s Saviour in embrace,
Joyed for herself and all the human race.
It has also been held by most Christians from early times that she was a virgin not only when her Son was born but also till her death. This cannot be proved either way: there is not, and perhaps could not be, any evidence. (St. Matthew 1:25 does not, in the original Greek, throw any light upon this matter.)
Our Lord’s Mother foretold that all generations would call her blessed (St. Luke 1:48). She was nearer to her Son than anyone else, and she probably lived under the same roof with Him for thirty years (St. Luke 3:23), ten times as long as most of His disciples. She has always been regarded as the first and holiest of saints.
In the Church of England since the Reformation many writers, in both prose and verse, have maintained a tradition of devotion toward the Blessed Virgin; such as Bishop Joseph Hall (d. 1656), George Herbert (d. 1633), Bishop Ken (d. 1711), Bishop Mant (d. 1848), John Keble (d. 1866), Stuckey Coles (d. 1929). There are five festivals of the Blessed Virgin in the English Prayer Book Calendar and more than two thousand churches, old and new, are dedicated to her. Statues and pictures of her in churches are very common; perhaps the most famous is the statue which Archbishop Laud placed over the porch of the University Church at Oxford, and which is still there.
However, the Anglican Communion is unwilling to go beyond its knowledge in honoring our Lord’s Mother. We know nothing about her except what is told us in Holy Scripture or may be proved from the Bible. There are many legends about her but they have no historical value; even the oldest of these come from the Apocryphal Gospels, which are certainly fictitious. That she is “in glory” is more than we know. No doubt she is in the highest condition of honor possible for any human being who is not also Divine. Without claiming to be certain about things so far beyond our knowledge, we think that human beings will be given new bodies at the Last Judgment and that they will not be in glory until they are clothed with the resurrection body. Since there is no evidence for the legend of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, we have no reason to suppose that she differs in this respect from all other human beings. We have no doubt that she prays for us, but we do not know whether she can hear our requests to her to do so and we have no right to ask her for anything but her prayers. For this reason there are no direct addresses to the Blessed Virgin, or to any other saint, in Anglican public services. Those who do not feel certain that she can hear what we say ought to be free not to address her directly. Those who think she can hear our prayers may freely address her in private, but they have no right to compel others to do so.
97. Did Jesus have brothers and sisters? As the Bible clearly says that He did, why is there belief in the perpetual virginity of His Mother? Who were the brothers mentioned in the Gospel? Would bearing other children have made her less holy?
The question as to who were the Lord’s “brothers and sisters” is not so simple as some people think. It has been disputed ever since the fourth century and even today is frequently argued. In the fourth century there were three rival theories: St. Epiphanius, Archbishop of Cyprus, held that the “brethren” were sons of St. Joseph by a former marriage and were therefore our Lord’s older stepbrothers. Helvidius taught that they were the sons of St. Joseph and St. Mary. St. Jerome (Hieronymus) believed that their mother was the Blessed Virgin Mary’s sister.
The opinion of St. Jerome is rejected by all modern scholars, though it is commonly held in the Roman Communion. The opinion of Helvidius was rejected by almost all Christians during his lifetime and by Catholic tradition ever since. But the Reformers took up this theory out of a prejudice against celibacy, and it has been widely taken for granted in Evangelical circles. There are, however, indications in the Gospels that it is mistaken.
St. Joseph took his wife and our Lord to Jerusalem when He was twelve years old. On the theory of Helvidius there were at least six younger children who must have been left alone at Nazareth. The attitude of His brethren toward Him (St. John 7:3–5) sounds more like that of older stepbrothers than of younger half brothers. Again, our Lord entrusted His Mother to the beloved disciple (St. John 19:26, 27). According to a highly probable tradition, the “beloved disciple” was St. John, and he was her nephew for St. John’s mother, Salome, was her sister (St. Mark 15:40, St. Matthew 27:56, St. John 19:25). If St. Mary had had sons of her own, it would have been their duty to support her. If our Lord had entrusted her to another man, they would have been jealous. This argument seems to me, if we accept St. John’s Gospel as accurate, quite conclusive.
There remains the theory of St. Epiphanius, that the “brethren” were the sons of St. Joseph by a former wife. If St. Joseph was an old man at the time of our Lord’s birth (he seems to have died before our Lord was thirty), it is probable that he had been married before, since Jewish boys were encouraged to marry at eighteen. Joseph, being the heir of David, needed sons to carry on the royal line from which the Messiah was expected to be born. This theory also explains why St. James, the eldest son, had such a great reputation among the Jews; it was not due to his character alone but to the fact that he was the heir of David. I think the theory of Epiphanius is practically certain.
98. Why are there such different teachings from the clergy about the Blessed Virgin?
Because they have been trained in different traditions and because some people delight in expressing opinions on subjects about which nothing is known.
99. What is the Immaculate Conception?
The Immaculate Conception is the opinion that our Lord’s Mother, from the first moment of her existence, was miraculously preserved from all stain of original sin, and from actual sin also. It was proclaimed as a dogma binding on all Romanists by Pope Pius IX in 1854.
There is no evidence for this opinion. The texts of Scripture given as authorities, Genesis 3:15 and St. Luke 1:28, have nothing to do with the case. It is contrary to Romans 3:23, which declares that all men have sinned (except, of course, our Lord – St. John 8:46). It was quite unknown to the early writers, some of whom, such as St. John Chrysostom (d. 407), accuse the Blessed Virgin of actual sin. It seems to have appeared about the eleventh century. The Eastern and Old Catholic Churches reject it as heretical.
100. What is the authority for believing in the Perpetual Virginity of the Blessed Virgin, and in her Assumption?
Belief in her perpetual virginity was almost universal from the third century. Most Christians have been unable to believe that she who was the mother of the Word of God could have had other children. But there is no evidence for this and, in the very nature of the case, probably could not be any (see Question 97).
If the Blessed Virgin had had other children it would not have made her any less holy, but there is no evidence that she did have any.
The legend of the Assumption was unknown in the early centuries of the Church and there is no historical evidence that it is true. It came to be generally accepted in all parts of the Church during the early Middle Ages and was proclaimed as a dogma necessary to salvation by Pope Pius XII in 1954. For several reasons most Anglican Churchmen find it quite incredible.
Chapter Nine – The Church
101. I don’t need the Church. I can be just as good staying at home, reading my Bible, and not being annoyed with others.
Your religion seems to be entirely selfish. The important thing is not what you think you need but what God requires of you. The purpose of religion is not to make you “good,” but to carry out the Will of God. You say you read the Bible. How often do you read it? Certainly you don’t understand it. The Bible could teach you many things of which you evidently know nothing; it shows, for example, that no one can serve God rightly except by being united with Him by a Covenant. To be under the Old Covenant men had to be Israelites. To be under the New Covenant we must be members of the Church, the New Israel (Acts 2:38; Rom. 6:3; Phil. 3:3). You cannot do anything good, not even “not being annoyed with others” (which is a negative kind of goodness), without the help of Divine grace. You cannot, normally, have Divine grace except through the sacraments and other means of grace given only to members of the Church. In St. John 6:53 our Lord said, “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.” You cannot do this except as a member of the Church. You would not even have a Bible if the Church had not written it and preserved it for you. You cannot understand the Bible (and evidently you don’t!) unless you study it with the help of scholars of the Church who explain it for you. You cannot serve your fellow men unless you join with others in the life of the Church. You must think again.
102. Let me alone. Why must you constantly interfere with my personal life? Why must I pledge? Why must I worship God? Isn’t living a good clean life enough?
God made you and keeps you alive. You are not your own but His. Your first duty is to worship Him, because it is the purpose for which you exist. You cannot lead a “good clean life” without God’s grace, which you receive even without knowing it: for of yourself, apart from that grace, you can do nothing good (Rom. 7:18). The Pharisees thought that they were living a “good clean life,” but even Christ Himself could do nothing for them because they were satisfied with themselves. “Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven” says our Lord (St. Matthew 5:20). You ought to be grateful to those who are trying to rescue you from your present dangerous condition of self-satisfaction, a condition that will certainly lead you to destruction if you do not acknowledge that you are a sinner in need of pardon.
103. How can the Church, as a human institution, claim any authority over me? How can the Church, or a clergyman, be so arrogant and audacious as to tell me that I must believe or do this or that? Is not this to interfere with my freedom of religion?
If the Church were an entirely human institution and you were a member of it, it would have a right to authority over you. The United States is a purely human institution, yet, as an American citizen, you are bound to obey its laws, because you benefit by the services it performs for you (too many to mention) and because you are required by God to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s (St. Mark 12:17).
But the Church is not an entirely human institution. It is the Body of Christ (I Cor. 12:27), the New Israel (Gal. 3:29), the representative of God on earth (Acts 1: 8). You are not forced to be a member of the Church, but if you refuse to be a member you must assume full responsibility for the consequences to yourself, both in this world and in the next (St. Mark 16:16). 1f you have chosen to be a member of the Church you are bound to believe its doctrines and to obey its laws, both those which have been revealed by God (the Ten Commandments, etc.) and those which are made by men with authority given to them by God (St. Matthew 18:18). The clergy, as officers of the Church, are bound to teach you, as a member, what you are to believe and to do (Mal. 2:7; I Thess. 5:12, 13). They are doing their duty, and you ought to be grateful instead of resentful toward them.
Freedom of religion is freedom under the civil law. You are not forbidden to worship Jupiter or Baal, or any other false god, if you wish to. But if you neglect to worship the true God, or put any other god in His place, you will suffer the fate which befalls those who misuse their freedom. If you have deliberately chosen to be a member of the Church you have put limits to your freedom, as everybody does who joins any society. If you belong to a club you must pay your subscription; if you are an American citizen you must pay your taxes; if you are a member of the Church you must pay your share toward the stipends of the clergy and the other Church expenses.
104. Our prayer group decided that Christians today were less Christian than those before the beginning of the organized Church. Are we losing ground?
There was no time when the Church was not organized and there were no Christians before there was an organized Church. The Church was organized from the beginning, as you can see from reading the New Testament. Your prayer group has no means of judging who is more and who is less Christian. In any case, “judge not, that ye be not judged (St. Matthew 7:1).
105. Why should people belong to the Church and go to church?
Man is a social being: none of us liveth to himself (Rom. 14:7). We cannot serve either God or our neighbors in solitude. The Church is the family of God, into which we were adopted when we were baptized. It is God’s chief instrument for bringing mankind back to Himself. It is only through the Church that we can receive the sacraments and other grace. It is only in the Church that we can be most fully ourselves, because only in the Church can we carry out to the utmost of our power the worship and service of God for which we were made. The highest kind of worship, that commanded by our Lord Himself, is the Holy in that act of worship every Sunday, whenever possible. That Eucharist. [(sic)] It is the duty of every member of the Church to join in what Sunday is for; not a day of rest but a day of worship. We are told not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together (for the Eucharist), for it was the only assembly practiced by early Christians (Heb. 10:25).
106. What do you mean by “the Church is the Body of Christ”?
It is the teaching of St. Paul that the Church is the Body of Christ (I Cor. 12:12–27; Rom. 7:4; Col. 1:18). The Church is an organism with one life imparted to it by Christ its Head. No one can understand the doctrine of the Church if he is under the delusion that men are entirely separate individuals. Neither a family nor a nation is simply the sum of its members; rather it is like an arch instead of a heap of stones, or a tree instead of a wood. Much more is this true of the Church of Christ. As our body is the means by which we express ourselves, so the Church is the means by which our Lord expresses Himself in this world. We are the members, the living parts, of that Body. The life of Christ, that is, His living power, which indeed is God the Holy Spirit, is given to us by the sacraments and other means of grace. If we do not use it we become like withered limbs on a tree, fit only to be destroyed. As each member has its own function in the human body, so each of us has his or her own function or vocation in the Church, some great, some small, but all necessary to its fullness. In the same way every race and every nation has its function in the Body of Christ. The Jews had their function, but they refused it, and the Church still suffers from the loss of them. The Greeks and the Latins, the Germans and the Russians, the British and the Americans, all have had their work to do in the filling up of the Body of Christ, and many other nations with them. Hereafter, with God’s help, the Indians and the Africans, the Chinese and the Japanese, will take their places beside them. Every race, however small, every individual, however obscure, has a function foreordained by God.
107. What is the analogy of the Church as the Bride of Christ?
The prophets sometimes spoke of God as the Husband of Israel (Jer. 3:20, 31:32; Ezek. 16; Hos. 2:16–20). Israel’s worship of false gods is compared with adultery. Psalm 45 was regarded by the Jews as a prophecy of the position given to Israel as the Bride of the Messiah. “Hearken, O daughter, and consider, incline thine ear; so shall the king have pleasure in thy beauty.” In the Gospels our Lord is sometimes compared to a bridegroom (St. Mark 2:19; St. Matthew 22:2). St. Paul compares man and wife to Christ and the Church (Eph. 5:22–33; cf. II Cor. 11:2). In the final vision of Revelation we read of the marriage of the Lamb (Rev. 19:7–9), and the seer is shown “the bride, the Lamb’s wife,” which is the heavenly Jerusalem (Rev. 21:9). [See Claude Chavasse, The Bride of Christ (London: Faber and Faber, 1939).]
108. Is not the Golden Rule the sum and substance of the teaching of Jesus?
The Golden Rule (St. Matthew 7:12) is “Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.” It is part of our Lord’s teaching but it does not cover all that He taught about our duty toward our neighbors and it does not even touch His teaching about our duty to God and to ourselves.
Our Lord said that the most important commandment was: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and mind and soul and strength (St. Mark 12:30). He quoted as a commandment: “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve” (St. Matthew 4:10); He proclaimed, “Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (St. Matthew 6:24); He said, “Be ye perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect” (St. Matthew 5:48), “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (St. Matthew 5:8), and “Whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple” (St. Luke 14:27). These sayings, and many others, have nothing to do with the Golden Rule, even though they are all concerned with conduct. Besides these, however, Christ also taught doctrine, which is even more important because what you do depends upon what you believe. Here are some of His teachings about doctrine: “These shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal” (St. Matthew 25:46); “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you” (St. John 6:53), and more fundamental still, “Before Abraham was, I am” (St. John 8:58).
109. Are not the precepts of Christianity really contained in the words “Live and let live”?
There is nothing specially Christian in these words; they are observed by all human beings who value their own interests, and even by other kinds of animals. The first duty of a Christian is to believe in, to worship, and to love God.
110. Isn’t Christianity really trying to follow the teachings of Jesus?
That is certainly necessary, but by itself it will not carry us far, because we cannot do this without grace, however hard we try. To be Christians we must first repent of our sins (realizing, of course, that we are sinners), then believe (that is, commit ourselves and all we have and are to Jesus Christ), be baptized into, His Church (St. Matthew 28:19; St. John 3:5), be confirmed (St. John 14:26; Acts 8:17), receive the Holy Communion regularly (I Cor. 11:25; St. John 6:56), and live as faithful members of His Church.
111. I believe in God and try to follow the teachings of Jesus, but why is the Church necessary?
See the preceding question. You might believe in God and yet not believe that He is Three in One and therefore love, or that Christ died and rose again for you, if the Church had not taught you. You might try to follow the teachings of Christ, but you would not be a Christian unless you had entered His Church by baptism. Our Lord did not need to teach His hearers to worship God; they were all practicing Jews and were worshiping God already. Our first duty is to worship God, for that is the purpose for which we were made. And we must do this corporately, in union with others. It is for this purpose that we must go to church, and it is for this purpose that the Lord’s Day is observed. The Church is the principal means by which the work of God in this world is carried on. You, like every other human being, have your appointed place and function in that work. If you do not take that place, God’s work is to that extent incomplete; you are letting Him down, though He has done everything for you.
112. A man, who is a better Christian than anyone else I have ever met, never goes to Church; how will he fare at the Day of judgment?
You do not know that he is a better Christian than anyone else you have ever met. You cannot know what he or anyone else is in the sight of God, and you have no right to offer an opinion on such a subject. We must all stand at the judgment seat of Christ (Rom. 14:10): it is our own eternal fate, not that of others, that should be our concern (St. John 21:22).
113. Why missions? There is plenty to do here; and, after all, other people have their own religions.
Indeed there is plenty to do here; how much of it do you do? Our Lord commanded us to make disciples of all nations. A black man in Central Africa is just as dear to Him as you and I are. There is no respect of persons with Him.
You evidently know very little about other religions. In many parts of the world the local religion is the fear of malicious spirits and the tyranny of the witch doctors. The gospel of Christ comes as a great deliverance. Some forms of Hinduism are simply devil worship. Temple prostitution is practiced on a large scale.
I heard the former Bishop of Melanesia tell this story: During Hitler’s war, American airmen were warned by the authorities that if they landed on a certain island in the Pacific they would be killed and eaten. Those authorities were two generations ‘behind the times. An American aircraft did crash on that island. The native lay reader and his congregation were gathering for Evening Prayer at the time. They rushed to the scene of the crash and, under the guidance of a doctor, who had been on board and was himself hurt, gave first aid to the injured. Then these same natives carried their patients on stretchers to the nearest American post, a task that took most of the night. The lay reader refused to accept a reward or even to give his name for a decoration. “We are Christians,” he said, “it is only our duty to help those in need.” That was the result of missions.
In many parts of the world there is a race between Christian missions and Islam (the religion of polygamy, fanaticism, and contempt for non-Moslems) or communism (the religion of atheism and class hatred). The Christian religion is the religion of love; Jesus Christ alone is the Saviour of all men.
114. Why should people give money to the Church?
If they are members of the Church they are bound to pay for Church expenses and for the stipends and training of the clergy because they benefit by them. If they are servants of Jesus Christ they must help to carry out His will for the sick, the orphans, the missions, and many other works. He said, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (St. Matthew 25:40).
115. What is the basis of the idea that the world exists to support the Church?
Since the Church is God’s chief instrument for carrying out His purpose, we may say that the world exists to support it. It would be better, however, to say that the Church exists for the glory of God, a purpose which is to be fulfilled by serving the world, that is, the human race. God may have other purposes for the world besides those which He has revealed to us.
116. How can we more effectively present the Catholic truth that one cannot be a practicing Christian without sharing in the life of the visible Church?
By sharing in it ourselves with all our power and trying to make it as attractive as possible to those who do not yet share it.
117. Why cannot I have the music I want at weddings and funerals? Why cannot my child be baptized when and where I want?
The music at weddings and funerals, as at all other services of the Church, is entirely under the control of the rector of the parish. It must be so, since various interests are involved. A reasonable priest will consult the bride (and possibly the bridegroom) at a wedding and the next of kin to the dead person at a funeral, but he is not bound to give them what they ask for if he thinks it unsuitable. His decision is final; there is no appeal from it.
Baptism is a public service of the Church, which desires that as many as possible should be present to welcome the new member into the family of God. The rule is that whenever possible baptism should take place at or after one of the public services on a Sunday or Holy Day, and in the parish church. Baptism in private houses is allowed only in cases of extreme sickness. (In England this rule is strictly enforced.) It is a common but deplorable custom for wealthy people to attempt to have their children baptized at a semiprivate service in church, at which no one is expected but the family and friends of the candidate. The more enlightened priests are trying to break down this custom by administering baptism only at a fixed hour on a fixed day. It is contrary to the Christian spirit to give a privilege to the wealthy which would not be given to the poor (James 2:2–5).
118. Why must I be active in the Church if I am to be a Christian?
Because our Saviour died for you and therefore you ought to do all you can for Him. Because He has given you some piece of work to do, and if you do not do it, it will not be done. Because, if you do not make use of whatever gift God has given you, you will lose the power to use it, and you will be of no service to God, to man, or to yourself (St. Matthew 13:40 ff.).
But being active in the Church does not necessarily mean that your vocation is to do what is commonly called “Church work.” It may be your vocation only to do your ordinary work as well as you can, as a service to God, and to set an example of Christian living to your neighbors.
119. What is the minimum requirement for a Christian? Is the average Churchman considered a “saint”?
There is no minimum requirement for a Christian. What is required of us all is perfection (St. Matthew 5:48). However, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have declared that the following are duties binding on every member of the Church:
(1) To follow Christ’s example in home and daily life, and bear personal witness to Him.
(2) To be regular in private prayer every day.
(3) To read the Bible carefully and regularly.
(4) To receive the Holy Communion faithfully and regularly.
(5) To give personal service to the Church, neighbors, and community.
(6) To give money for parish and diocese, and for the work of the Church at home and overseas.
(7) To uphold the standard of marriage entrusted by Christ to His Church.
(8) To take care that children are brought up to love and serve the Lord.
120. In what tangible provable ways is the world a better place to live in through the life and death of Jesus Christ, compared with the world before His time?
Read Mr. Stewart Perowne’s recent life of Herod the Great for a picture of what even the Jews, the chosen people, who were far more moral than the Greeks or Romans, had come to by the time of our Lord.
Here are a few of the reforms due to the Christian religion: The gladiatorial shows (as popular as football and racing are today), in which men killed each other for the entertainment of the audience, were stopped by Christian emperors, because of the martyrdom of St. Telemachus, who protested and was lynched by the spectators. The murder of unwanted infants, an everyday practice among the Romans, was stopped. The foul practices in heathen religions were forbidden. Slavery was at last abolished, largely through the work of Christians such as Clarkson, Wilberforce, Fowell Buxton, David Livingstone, and many Americans. The Mexican religion, the chief feature of which was human sacrifice on a large scale, was abolished by Cortes.
121. Should not the Church steer clear of politics? Should a priest lead a political group?
In my personal opinion the Church as such should steer clear of party politics. There are good men as well as bad men in all parties. The Church will have much more power to defend what is right if it is able to say to any party, “Do that, and we all, whatever our party, will vote against you.” But the Church should use any such power only for a clearly moral cause and must not identify in its own material or even spiritual interests with the Will of God. Only seldom is one side in politics so certainly right and the other wrong that all members of the Church are morally bound to vote one way.
The clergy should never attach themselves to any political party for several reasons: (1) The priest in charge of souls must be the same to all his people, whatever their politics; but he will not be this if he is known to belong to a political party. (2) He will find it impossible to make people distinguish between his personal opinions and the beliefs he is required to teach as an officer of the Church; either they will think that his opinions are those of the Church or they will think that the doctrines of the Church have no more authority than do his personal opinions. (3) Politics is always an affair of compromise; but the priest’s theological training should have accustomed him to think of truth as absolute truth and of right conduct as absolutely right; therefore, as history shows, clerical politicians are usually bad politicians or else bad priests (Laud was the former, Wolsey the latter). (4) Priests are required to give their whole time to their proper work; they ought to have no time for political activity.
But the Christian laity ought to take their full share in politics. If good men avoid political action, it will be misused by bad men for selfish purposes.
122. Why do not the Church and its parishes oppose more actively communism and socialism, as the Roman Communion does?
Socialism is to be sharply distinguished from communism. Every member of the Communist party must be a militant atheist and try to destroy every kind of religion, according to the teaching of Marx. Socialism, on the continent of Europe, is said to be opposed to religion, but in Britain many Socialists are practicing Christians. Such leading Socialists as George Lansbury and Sir Stafford Crípps have been ardent members of the Church. Other Socialists are members of the Roman Communion, and the Pope, who does not allow Romanists to be Socialists on the Continent, permits them to join the (Socialist) British Labour party.
The best way for the Church to oppose communism is to preach and practice the Christian religion, especially in its social aspects, and to show those to whom communism appeals that it is not true that “religion ... is the opium of the people” or that the Church is allied with the wealthy against the poor. The Roman Communion is not in quite the same position as we are. Many of its members, especially the Irish, are accustomed to look to their priests for guidance in politics. That is not our tradition; we think that the priest is no more competent than any educated layman to give guidance in politics and that in some ways he is less competent because he is trained to study truth and conduct absolutely rather than relatively.
123. What is the proper role of the Church in the social order?
To answer this question a treatise would be required. I assume that the “Church” here means the laity as well as the clergy. The duty of the Church and its members to the social order is based on the doctrine and moral teaching of the New Testament, as understood by the Universal Church. The application of Christian principles to the complex problems of modern social life requires long and careful study. No one’s opinion on any subject is worth listening to unless he has studied that subject and has the intelligence to use his knowledge. I have neither the knowledge nor the experience (never having had to earn my living as a layman) and therefore I cannot answer this question except to say that the Church and its members, in judging such a matter, ought to lay aside all selfish interests, both their own and those of their class or race or country or even Church, and, as far as possible, consider only what seems to be according to the revealed Will of God.
124. Is excommunication still practiced by the Church? If so, on what grounds may one be excommunicated?
Excommunication is the severest punishment which the Church has the right or power to inflict. The excommunicated person is excluded from all the rights of membership, including Communion and burial with the Church service (see Article 33, American numbering, which declares that the excommunicated person is to be boycotted, a practice now obsolete). In the Roman and Orthodox Communions excommunication is not uncommon.
In the Anglican Communion it is chiefly found in the mission field, especially Africa, and is imposed for idolatry, witchcraft, and sexual offenses. In English-speaking countries it is rarely used, for several reasons. The purpose of excommunication is to bring the offender to repentance and restoration and to warn the faithful against his errors. In modern England a sentence of excommunication, and the trial in the Church court which must precede such a sentence, would bring the offender much undesirable publicity. He can always join one of the many sects which give communion to everyone who asks for it, and the sort of person who would be likely to be excommunicated in English-speaking countries would not hesitate to do this, especially as public sympathy would probably be on his side. Two centuries of individualism in religion have made the sin of schism almost meaningless. In England, where the Church courts are controlled by the State, the legal difficulties and the expense of a prosecution make excommunication almost impossible.
Excommunication may be imposed only by the bishop of the diocese, and is inflicted for grave offenses against faith or morals. A modern American case is that of William Montgomery Brown, [He was consecrated Bishop Coadjutor of Arkansas in 1898 and the next year became diocesan; he resigned his jurisdiction in 1912 and was deposed in 1929. He died in 1937.] who was deprived of his bishopric and excommunicated because he declared that he believed in God only “in a symbolic sense.” J. W. Colenso, Bishop of Natal, was excommunicated in 1863 by the Church of South Africa for rejecting the doctrine of the Atonement and for other heresies, as well as for refusing to recognize the authority of the Provincial Synod. The excommunication led to a small schism, which still exists.
125. What happens to the nonbeliever?
We do not know. We cannot judge how far his lack of belief is his own fault. He is under both the justice and the mercy of God.
Chapter Ten – The Anglican Communion
Introductory Note. Since the standpoint from which the next chapters are written will be strange to many readers, I must explain it as briefly as I can.
There is, and can be, only One Church, which is the Body of Christ (I Cor. 12:12; Eph. 1:22, 23). This is an article of the Creed: I believe one Holy Catholic Apostolic Church. The Church is partly in this world and partly in Paradise; it is the New Israel, the chosen people of God. In this world, like the Old Israel, it is visible; that is, we know who belongs to it and who does not. Those who have been baptized, and only those, are members of it. Some of these are good and some are bad. A bad man may be a member of the Church (Acts 5:1, 8:21); an unbaptized man, however holy, cannot be a member of the Church in this world.
When the New Testament speaks of churches, it means local communities of Christians; the Church of Corinth or of Ephesus means the Christian community in that city, organized under apostolic authority and including all baptized persons; for the New Testament knows nothing of an unbaptízed Christian.
Over against the Church we find the sects. A sect is a society of Christians, large or small, organized for a particular purpose, such as to promote some special doctrine or method, in opposition to, or as a supplement to, the official apostolic Church. I wish to show no disrespect toward the sects (commonly called “churches”). Many of them have plainly received the Divine blessing, for they have done immense work for Christ, sometimes work which the Church could not or did not do. Members of these sects, if baptized, are members of the Church, though in most cases not full members because they have not been confirmed and do not recognize apostolic authority. But the sects themselves, properly speaking, are not churches; they do not, in most cases, accept the whole faith of the Apostles, and they do not possess authority derived from the Apostles nor are they historically connected with the Apostles. Hence a member of one of the sects, if baptized, is a member of the Church, not because he belongs to the sect but because he has been baptized; although he is not a full member of the Church because he has not been confirmed.
The Catholic Church ought to be a single united society. Through quarrels in past centuries about secondary matters, it is now divided into different sections, which we call “Communions.” It is like a nation divided by a civil war or like Israel from the time of Jeroboam to the Captivity, which was divided into two kingdoms, yet both belonged to the chosen people. All these Communions possess the same Creed, sacraments, and ministry; the same religious life is found in them all; they are all governed by the apostolic authority of their bishops. They are not completely separated, but are rather like members of one family who have quarreled, as Israel and Judah had quarreled.
In England, we claim that the Provinces of Canterbury and York are the Catholic Church in England. They possess the apostolic faith and authority and they have been here since the gospel was first preached to the English. The majority of the English people have always belonged to these provinces and, nominally, still do. We make the same claim for the Welsh and Scottish Churches in communion with Canterbury, although the majority of the Welsh and Scots do not recognize the authority of their bishops. It is a claim that has nothing to do with “establishment.” We say that every baptized person in England is a member of the Catholic Church and therefore of the Church of England, for three is no other. (Resident foreigners, belonging to the churches of their own countries, are the only exceptions.) They may not be full members of the Church, but by their baptism they have a measure of membership.
In the United States the position is not so simple. The Church of England was brought to Virginia by the first settlers in 1607. It remained an outlying part of the Diocese of London until the American Revolution. Then it was organized as an independent national Church, in full communion with the Church of England. Every member of the Church of England, if he lands in America, becomes automatically a member of the Episcopal Church, and vice versa. Meanwhile different groups of settlers had brought various sects with them, and other sects were founded in America. The French, Italians, Poles, etc., brought the Roman Communion. The Greeks, Russians, Serbs, etc., brought the Orthodox Eastern Communion. The Armenians and Assyrians brought their own national Churches.
The Episcopal Church, therefore, cannot claim to be exclusively the Catholic Church in the United States, as the Church of England claims to be in England. What it can claim is this: an American who wishes to live the Catholic life as a full member of the Catholic Church, cannot belong to the Roman Communion unless he is willing to submit to the papal claims and dogmas, which all who are not Romanists believe to be false and unscriptural. If he belongs to one of the Eastern Churches, he will be a member of a church attached to some foreign nation, whose history, traditions, and usually language are foreign. There is as yet no one American Orthodox Church. To be Orthodox you have to belong to the Greek, or Russian, or some other foreign Church. But an American may belong to the Episcopal Church, which is thoroughly American, keeps to American traditions, and is subject to no authority outside the United States. It does not claim exclusive jurisdiction, as the English Church does in England. (The Romanísts and the Eastern Churches have their own jurisdictions in America, which the Episcopal Church recognizes.) But the Episcopal Church has the right to claim allegiance from Americans, as the one Communion which is Catholic, free from papal additions to the faith, and entirely American. How far it makes that claim, or lives up to it, is for the reader to judge, but I cannot see any other ground on which the Episcopal Church can claim the allegiance of its members or even the right to exist.
126. “The Episcopal Church has the historic Catholic Faith.” What does this mean?
Catholic means universal. The teaching of the Episcopal Church and of the other Anglican Churches is the same as that of the Church of the early centuries and is based entirely on the Holy Scriptures, as they were understood in the ancient Church and as modern scientific discovery and criticism have thrown new light upon them. The Episcopal Church also maintains the ancient Church order and government based on the Catholic doctrine of the ministry. It accepts, as a summary of the faith and order of the ancient Church, the Lambeth Quadrilateral drawn up at Chicago in 1886 by the General Convention of the Episcopal Church and accepted by the Lambeth Conference of all the Anglican bishops in 1888. This statement is not a binding doctrinal formulary and does not include the whole Catholic faith; it was put forward as a preliminary basis for negotiations with other Communions. It consists of four points, the Bible, the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds, the two great sacraments, and the three orders of the historic ministry, bishops, priests, and deacons.
127. What is the real meaning of “Catholic” as used in the Episcopal Church?
Remember, “Catholic” means universal. Strictly speaking, only those doctrines and practices are Catholic which have always been believed and used in all parts of the Church. More loosely, the word is applied to practices and traditions (such as the observance of Christmas Day or the use of special dress by the clergy) which have a long continuous history and are universally accepted, even though they do not go back to apostolic times. The word also implies “orthodoxy,” holding the right faith and worshiping God in the right manner as required by the Church.
Every member of the Church, who is baptized, in communion with the bishops, and not excommunicated, is a Catholic. The opposite of Catholic is heretic, a person who, being a member of the Church, rejects any part of its defined faith; or schismatic, a person who is separated through his own fault from the fellowship of the bishops or encourages those who are separated to remain separated.
128. Is the Episcopal Church a denomination within the Holy Catholic Apostolic Church?
The word “denomination” means a religious society of any kind, in relation to the State and to society in general. It has no theological significance.
According to the standpoint from which this book is written, the Episcopal Church is the Catholic Church in the United States, without prejudice to the jurisdiction over their own people of the Roman and Eastern Communions (Orthodox, Assyrian, and Armenian) and the National Polish Church.
129. How do we know that the Anglican Communion is part of the Body of Christ?
The Anglican Communion, which is represented in the United States by the Episcopal Church, holds the faith or doctrine based on Holy Scripture which the ancient Catholic Church held to be necessary to salvation; it has neither added anything to that faith nor left anything out. It has maintained continuity both in the faith and in the orderly succession of the bishops from the earliest times. In the British Isles the Anglican Communion has continued the ancient hierarchy of the bishops holding the ancient faith, and therefore it has exclusive jurisdiction there. In the United States the Episcopal Church may claim to have been the first part of the Church to be planted in the country and to be the only part of it not necessarily connected with any foreign nation or under the jurisdiction of any foreign bishop.
The Anglican Communion cannot be justly accused of any act of heresy or schism, except by those who believe that the papal claims and dogmas are necessary to the Christian religion. The abundant life which this Communion displays, its extension throughout the world, and the growth within it of all the normal features of Catholic devotion, such as the retreat movement, the honor given to the saints, the practice of daily Communion, the life of men and women under vows of poverty, celibacy, and obedience, and the heroism of its missionaries and martyrs, show that it belongs to Catholic Christendom and has received the blessing of God on its work.
130. What is our relationship with the Polish National Catholic Church?
The Polish National Catholic Church, which is the American part of the group of Churches called the Union of Utrecht, or Old Catholic, is in full communion with the American Episcopal Church. The basis of the full communion is the agreement drawn up at Bonn (of which I was one of the signatories) between the representatives of the Church of England and the Old Catholic Churches of Europe. It was accepted by the Polish National Catholic Church in 1936. (For the text of the agreement, see Lambeth Report, 1948.)
Full communion means that any member of either Church has all the rights of a member in the other Church; just as the members of the Church of England and of the Episcopal Church have in one another’s Churches. What is unique about the Polish National Catholic Church is that it is the only Old Catholic Church in the same country as an Anglican Church. This is technically irregular, because normally there can be only one Church in one country, and the Anglican Churches are careful to respect the jurisdiction of other Communions which they recognize as Catholic. But in this case it is necessary because the Polish National Catholic Church consists entirely of Poles and Lithuanians, whose language and religious habits and traditions are different from those of the Episcopal Church. The other Old Catholic Churches are those of Holland, Germany, Switzerland, and Austria, and two or three smaller groups in Europe. They are grouped round the ancient archbishopric of Utrecht, which was founded in 696.
131. Discuss our Faith and Reunion (Ministry).
Reunion of the Church requires, as a first condition, agreement on what is meant by the Church and by Reunion. On this there are at least three different doctrines:
(1) The Church is visible, and cannot be divided (Roman). In this case reunion means submission to the Pope.
(2) The Church is visible, and reunion requires agreement in fundamental doctrine but not submission (Anglican and Eastern). The Anglican Churches hold that the Church is divided by schism; the Orthodox Churches hold that it cannot be divided, and that the Orthodox Eastern Communion is the only true Church.
(3) The Church is invisible, consists of all who are converted, and is found wherever the Word of God is preached and the (two) sacraments are administered. Those who believe, as the Easterns, Romanists, Anglicans, and some Lutherans do, that the Church is visible and is composed of the baptized must hold that it ought to have one government, which can only be that of the apostolic ministry of bishops, priests, and deacons.
Those who believe that the Church is invisible and manifests itself in a number of independent sects do not think that it matters what sort of ministry they choose to have. They do not believe that historic continuity or apostolic authority is necessary.
132. Give a list, and explanation, of the legitimate traditions of Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant Communions.
This is too big a question to be answered here. The term “Protestant Communion” should be avoided, for, strictly speaking, there is no such thing. The Anglican Communion, which is neither Eastern, Roman, nor, in the usual modern sense, Protestant, is not mentioned.
133. Why don’t we admit we are Catholic without papist addition or Puritan subtraction? Why should we double-talk about being both Catholic and Protestant?
The first sentence of this question is a fair description of the Anglican position: it comes from the will of Thomas Ken, Bishop of Bath and Wells. The Anglican Communion declares that it is Catholic, for it recites the Catholic creeds and in the Prayer Book refers to the Catholic Church. As long as the Episcopal Church uses the word “Protestant” in its title, it cannot deny that it is in some way Protestant; in the eighteenth century the word meant only non-Roman or Anglican; but it has now changed its meaning and ought to be dropped.
134. A Catholic friend once told me that the Episcopal Church is merely a branch of the Catholic Church. What is the reply?
The word “Catholic” as used in this question appears to mean Romanist. This is a meaning of the word which no member of the Anglican Communion should ever allow to be used in his presence, still less use it himself. In the case where the Episcopal Church is referred to, as in this question, the reply is, “Of course it is, and I am glad you admit it; but I don’t see how, on your [Roman] principles, you can.” For no Romanist can consistently admit that we, who reject the papal claims and the dogmas of the Councils of Trent and the Vatican, can be a part of the Catholic Church.
On the other hand, we are not a part of the Roman ecclesiastical empire, sometimes, but incorrectly, called “the Western Church.” The Anglican Churches are Catholic, but neither Roman nor Latin.
135. What is the authority of the Church in pronouncements on faith and morals? How is it promulgated? How far are such pronouncements binding on the laity?
We must distinguish between the two meanings of “authority.” It may mean moral and intellectual weight, as when one says, “F. J. Hall is a great authority, or has great authority, in dogmatic theology.” Or it may mean the right to be obeyed; the policeman exercises this kind of authority when he tells us to stop. The Church has both kinds of authority but the second appears to be meant here.
The Church Universal (except the Roman Communion) is normally governed by national or provincial synods or councils, consisting of bishops, in whom the final authority rests, with representatives of the clergy and laity. The General Councils, of which we recognize six, were summoned as extraordinary assemblies to deal with particular cases. Their decrees on faith and morals, as far as they may be proved from Scripture and have been accepted by all the local churches, are binding on all members of the Church. The best known of these decrees is that in which the Council of Chalcedon (451) promulgated the Nicene Creed (except the clause “and the Son”). There is no council for the whole Anglican Communion. The resolutions of the Lambeth Conference (to which all Anglican diocesan bishops are invited) have no binding force, unless and until they have been ratified by the national or provincial synods. The synod of the American Episcopal Church is called the General Convention.
Such a synod may issue decisions on faith and morals, if they can be proved to be in agreement with Holy Scripture and the decisions of the General Councils and if they do not alter the universally accepted conditions for the validity of a sacrament. For instance, it is universally agreed that the wine used for the Holy Communion must be fermented grape juice and that no woman is admissible to Holy Orders. No local or national synod can disregard these rules, which are certainly in accordance with Scripture; for if it did, other local churches would not recognize its sacraments (including the ministry). The Anglican principle is: “The Church hath power to decree rites or ceremonies, and authority in controversies of faith; and yet it is not lawful for the Church to ordain anything that is contrary to God’s Word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture, that it be contrary to another” (Article 20). See also Article 6, which lays it down that no man is required to believe, as necessary to salvation, what cannot be proved from Scripture. Within these limits, the decisions of provincial synods on faith and morals are binding on both the clergy and the laity. But Anglican synods rarely issue such decisions.
136. What is the difference between Catholic and Protestant?
Both terms require careful definition. Catholic means that which belongs to the whole Church and to the true faith. The opposite to it is “heretical.” Protestant, in the old sense. meant antipapal. The opposite to it is Romanist or papalist. But in the present age the word “Protestant” is loosely used to cover all persons, in some sense Christian, who not only reject the papal claims but also deny that the Church on earth is a single, organized, visible society to which all Christians ought to belong; that there is any need for historic continuity from the Apostles’ time; and that there is any ministerial priesthood in the Church on earth, distinct from the corporate “priesthood of all believers.” In practice, Protestant now means “belonging to the sects.”
137. Is the Episcopal Church Catholic or Protestant?
Both; it is Catholic positively and Protestant negatively. It is Catholic in its essential nature because it maintains the Catholic and apostolic faith and order. It is Protestant, in the old sense, negatively because it rejects the papal claims to supremacy, infallibility, and universal jurisdiction, and the decrees of the Councils of Trent and the Vatican. It is not Protestant in attaching any authority to the teaching of the Reformers as such or in rejecting the doctrines of the universal visible Church, baptismal regeneration, apostolic authority or ministerial priesthood. It is not one of the “Protestant Churches” and has not necessarily anything in common with the sects that are thus described.
138. Why don’t we omit “Protestant” from the name of our Church, since its meaning has changed?
The word is highly misleading and ought to have been omitted long ago.
139. What does Protestant mean is the Church’s title?
In the eighteenth century the word “Anglican” had not come into use. “Protestant” was the word commonly used to distinguish the Church of England from the Roman Communion and sometimes also from the Puritan sects. Even in this century I once heard the following dialogue in a play by Lennox Robinson (in Ireland): “Are you a Protestant? Certainly not, I am a Presbyterian.” In Germany “Protestant” means Lutheran but not Calvinistic. “Protestant” in the title of the Episcopal Church means Anglican, or American, Catholic.
140. What constitutes an act of schism?
Formal breach of the unity of the Church or any act which tends toward it. Schism may be within the Church, such as the many historical quarrels between the Greeks and the Latins or the breach between Rome and Canterbury in 1570, or it may be from the Church, such as the setting up of new sects as rivals to it. To say or do anything that is likely to encourage the belief that it does not matter to what church or sect you belong is an act of schism. It is usually held that members of the Church are guilty of an act of schism if they take part in the worship, and still more in the sacraments, of sects which do not recognize the authority of the Church unless for some special reason and with due permission.
141. Why are we not in full communion with the Church of South India? Why not make concessions for the sake of unity?
Concessions can never be rightly made in matters of truth, even for the sake of unity. For instance, most of us are agreed that we cannot accept the papal claims, even for the sake of unity, because we do not believe them to be true. The union of the Church must be a greatest common measure rather than a lowest common multiple: it is a fatal mistake to give up what you believe to be valuable, even if not absolutely necessary, because someone else has a prejudice against it.
There appear to be two main obstacles in the way of full communion with the Church of South India. One is that many of its ministers have not been ordained by a bishop, which implies the principle that episcopal ordination is not necessary. If we were in full communion with the C.S.I., some of these men, who are not priests, would be permitted to celebrate the Holy Communion in Anglican churches. This would almost certainly lead to a widespread schism. The time may come when all the ministers of the C.S.I. will have been ordained by bishops, for there have been no ordinations by anyone else since 1945. When that time comes no one will be committed to the principle that episcopal ordination is not necessary. But that principle must be explicitly rejected before full communion can be accepted.
A much greater obstacle is that the C.S.I. is in full communion with the Presbyterians, Methodists, and Congregationalists in other countries. This implies either that these sects are Churches in the Catholic sense (which they themselves do not claim) or that the C.S.I. does not think the differences between a Church and a sect are important. It is hard to see how this obstacle can be overcome.
There are various minor difficulties. The C.S.I. gives some authority to that intolerable formulary, the Westminster Confession. It is also said to use some substance which is not wine in its Communion service, and its rules of marriage are said to be lax.
Chapter Eleven – The Eastern Churches
142. What are the essential differences between the Anglican and Orthodox Communions?
Strictly speaking, there are no essential differences. The chief formal difference is that the Orthodox Churches regard the decrees of the Seven General Councils as their doctrinal basis, but the Anglican Churches recognize only six. There is no real reason why the Anglican Churches should not accept the Seventh Council, which forbade both irreverence and superstition toward sacred pictures. [See my book, The Church of England and the Seventh Council. New York: Morehouse-Gorham, 1957.]
The two chief practical differences are that the Orthodox Churches do not officially regard churches which are outside their communion as belonging to the true Church and that the great variety of belief and practice among Anglicans is not acceptable to the Orthodox, who are accustomed to a closer conformity of belief and practice everywhere. The psychological difference caused by differences of history, tradition, and language also is very great.
Some Orthodox bishops think that the clause “and the Son” in the Nicene Creed, which was added in the West without the consent of the Eastern Church, has been explained satisfactorily by the Anglican bishops. But others are not so sure of it. There is also misunderstanding about some of the Articles of Religion in the Anglican Prayer Books. At the present time by far the larger part of the Orthodox Communion is under Communist rule; it is doubtful whether the Orthodox Churches are free enough to take any decisive common action.
143. Why is not a more visible pathway of unity with the Orthodox Church set up?
144. Why is not the Episcopal Church a pioneer of closer relations with the Orthodox Churches, as it has been with the Protestants?
The majority of our lay people (and many priests) know nothing about the Orthodox Churches. Some are even prejudiced against them. If the Episcopal Church would drop the misleading word “Protestant” from its title it would remove from Orthodox minds and hearts one great obstacle to closer relations with us. We might also formally accept the Seventh General Council and omit the “and the Son” clause from the Nicene Creed, for it has not, like the rest of the Creed, the authority of the whole Church.
145. Do the Orthodox Churches accept us as part of the historic Church?
Officially they do not. I do not see how they could. The ignorance and false belief which are so constantly found among our laity, and even among our clergy (as these questions show), make it hard for our Orthodox friends to treat all Anglicans as being of the same religion as themselves.
146. What is the relationship between the Anglican and Orthodox Communions?
It has been very close and friendly for many years. Active proselytism is discouraged on both sides. The Archbishop of Canterbury regularly exchanges letters of greeting with the heads of Orthodox Churches, at the great festivals and on their enthronements. Anglican students spend periods in Orthodox colleges and Orthodox students in Anglican colleges. The bishops attend one another’s consecrations as guests, but do not take part in them.
The Greek and Rumanian, but not the Slavonic, Churches, up to now, have recognized Anglican ordinations as equivalent to Roman ordinations. (Strictly speaking, the Orthodox Churches do not fully recognize any ordinations which are not Orthodox.) In many ways, at the higher levels, the two Communions support one another. But most of the clergy and laity on each side know very little about those on the other side.
147. How can intercommunion with certain Orthodox groups be hastened?
The word “intercommunion” has no meaning for the Orthodox Churches. A Church or a person is either Orthodox, and therefore in full communion with other Orthodox, or not Orthodox, and therefore not in communion. The whole Orthodox group of Churches acts together; we could not be in communion with some and not with others.
The best way to promote reunion with the Orthodox Churches is to pray regularly for them, to make friends with their members, to study their history and their point of view, and to take part in their worship (which, in this case, is not an act of schism). They are the masters of us all in the art of liturgical worship, and to accustom ourselves to their liturgy is the best way to understand them. For orthodoxy is not only “right belief” but also “right worship.” Their liturgy has behind it a richer tradition than any in the West can claim.
Chapter Twelve – The Roman Communion
148. Is it not plain from the Bible that Peter was selected to be the head of the Church?
Nowhere in the New Testament is St. Peter ever called the head of the Church. St. Paul calls our Lord the head of the Church (Eph. 1:23, 4:15). In I Corinthians 12:27 he says, “ye are the body of Christ,” and refers (v. 28) to different members, placing Apostles first. In II Corinthians 11:5 and 12:11 he claims to be “in nothing behind the very chiefest apostles.”
St. Peter was the leader and spokesman of the Apostles. He had the position of first among equals; their eldest brother, not their father. He was sent on a mission by the “apostolic college,” the Apostles corporately (Acts 8:14) and was sometimes called upon to account for his actions (Acts 11:2; Gal. 2:14). Our Lord said to him, “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church” (St. Matthew 16:18). This verse is explained in different ways, but if St. Peter is the rock, he is compared to the foundation stone of a building because he was the first to declare openly that our Lord was “the Christ, the Son of the living God.” But a foundation stone can, as foundation stone, have no successors. All members of the Church are the stones laid afterward (I Peter 2:5; though here our Lord, not St. Peter, is called the foundation stone) but there can be only one foundation. The power to bind and loose, of which the keys were a symbol, was not given to St. Peter alone, but to all the Apostles (St. Matthew 18: 18).
The popes are not the successors of St. Peter, for there is no evidence at all that he was ever Bishop of Rome. According to the earliest evidence, that of St. Irenaeus a century later, St. Peter and St. Paul consecrated Linus to be the first Bishop of Rome. The two Apostles were like our missionary bishops, founding Christian communities in different places (I Peter 1:1; II Cor. 11:28) but seem to have had no fixed sees. However, it appears likely that St. Peter did not continue to be the leader and spokesman of the Apostles all his life. Dr. Cullmann, in his recent book on St. Peter, argues convincingly that St. Peter took charge of the mission to the Jews, as St. Paul did of the mission to the Gentiles (Gal. 2:7), leaving St. James, the Lord’s brother, in charge of the home Church at Jerusalem. Thus St. James takes the chair at the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15:13) and sums up the discussion. In Acts 21:18 he is the head, in later terminology the bishop, of the Church in Jerusalem. In St. John 14:26 the Holy Ghost is promised as the Teacher of all Christians. In the letter which the Pope sent to Kubla Khan, the Mongol Emperor of China, giving him a summary of Christian doctrine, he said much about the teaching authority of Rome but hardly mentioned the Holy Ghost, Who is the true Vicar or Representative of Christ on earth. As the papal claims increased, the Holy Ghost was half forgotten.
149. Was Peter the rock on which the Church was built?
That is one explanation, but in any case it does not apply to his successors, if he had any. Many early writers explain the rock as Christ Himself, for in the Old Testament God is the Rock of Israel (II Sam. 22:2, etc.) and in I Peter 2:4–8 Christ Himself is the foundation. But even if St. Peter is the rock, he is not unique, for all the Apostles are foundations of the wall of the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:14).
150. Was St. Peter the first Pope?
No; he was not even Bishop of Rome; the first Bishop of Rome was Linus (see Question 148). There were no popes, in the later sense of the word, for centuries after St. Peter. Monsignor Duchesne, the great Romanist historian, writing of the fourth century, says: “The Papacy, as the West was to know it later, was still to be born” (Early History of the Church, Vol. 2, p. 522). All bishops were called pope (father) until the sixth century. It was Gregory VII in the eleventh century who forbade other bishops to be called pope. The claim to universal authority first appeared about the fifth century.
151. Define our differences from Rome for those who say that “is (sic) just like the Catholic Church.”
We claim that the Episcopal or Anglican Church is Catholic and has as much right to the Catholic heritage as the Romanists have. In all that is really Catholic in faith, such as the creeds, sacraments, and priesthood; in order, such as episcopal government, and diocesan organization; and in worship, such as the Church Calendar, and the use of such ornaments as chasubles, etc., for priests, miters for bishops, crucifixes and sacred pictures, candles and incense, we resemble the Romanists, although our tradition is independent and sometimes different in detail.
Where we differ from them in faith we do so because we believe that our doctrine is true, scriptural, and Catholic, and theirs is not. Where we differ from them in order and worship we do so because we claim that we are not bound by any rules which are only Latin or “Western” and that we are as independent of Rome as we are of the Eastern Churches.
The differences between the Anglican and Roman systems can be given here only very briefly. We have no wish to dwell on what unhappily divides us from our brethren in Christ.
(1) We deny that the Pope is the successor of St. Peter or the Vicar of Christ, that St. Peter was ever Bishop of Rome, that the Bishop of Rome has by Divine right any superiority over other bishops, that it is necessary to salvation to obey the Pope or to be in communion with him, that he is infallible, and that he has universal jurisdiction, or any patriarchal jurisdiction beyond Italy and the adjacent islands (for this was all that was given him by consent of the General Councils). We believe that the highest authority in the Church belongs to the bishops as successors of the Apostles (St. Luke 22:29; Acts 5:13; I Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11) and that the Romanist interpretation of the “Petrine texts” is quite unhistorical and was unknown for several centuries.
(2) We do not believe in autocratic and irresponsible government. Our bishops are not dictators; they may act only with the consent of the other bishops and of the priests and laity of their dioceses. Our church government is corporate and synodical, as it was in the ancient Church and as it is still in all the Eastern Churches. We think that the Church in each nation ought to be free to govern itself, within the limits set by Scripture, the definitions of the General Councils, and the conditions of the validity of the sacraments which are universally recognized.
(3) We reject the authority of the Council of Trent (1545–1563) and the Vatican (1870), and all other Latin Councils; also the authority of all papal bulls and briefs. Therefore we repudiate the new dogmas of the Immaculate Conception (1894) and Assumption (1954) of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the dogmas of Purgatory, Indulgences, Transubstantiation, etc., which were made binding by the Council of Trent.
(4) We assert that every dogma necessary to membership of the Church, that is, to present salvation (for the conditions of future salvation are not known to us), must be found in, or proved by, Holy Scripture. We accept the definitions of the General Councils, not because the Pope has ratified them, but because they can be proved from Scripture and have been accepted by the whole Church for many centuries. We reject the doctrine of Trent, that tradition is equal to Scripture as a source of dogma, because it has enabled the Pope to proclaim as necessary dogmas opinions which cannot be proved from Scripture and were unknown to the ancient Church.
(5) We claim freedom for the clergy to marry at their discretion and for the laity to receive Holy Communion in both kinds, according to our Lord’s command (St. Matthew 26:27). We value confession to a priest as a means of grace, but we enforce it on no one. We claim that it is the right and the duty of all Christians to read the Bible in their own language (but not to insist on their own interpretation of it, for “no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation” – -II Peter 1:20); and to have the liturgy and other services of the Church in a language which they can understand.
(6) We claim for ourselves political, intellectual, and liturgical freedom; we are not in any way bound to the political interests of the Vatican; we are free from the censorship and the index of prohibited books, from the decrees of the Biblical Commission and other Vatican pronouncements, and from the traditions and superstitions which have survived in the Roman Communion from medieval, and even pagan, times; we have our own Prayer Book, which we are free to change when our synods wish, instead of the rites and ceremonies of the Missal and Breviary, which have no authority for us.
(7) Finally, our tradition was separated from that of the Latin Churches in the sixteenth century, and we distinguish between customs which we have inherited from the Middle Ages, such as the use of vestments and incense, and customs which sprang up in Southern Europe after the Reformation, which are not part of our tradition, however harmless they may be in themselves, such as the use of the Italian cotta, biretta, and zucchetto, or the feasts of the Sacred Heart and Our Lady of Victories. We ought to do nothing in our Church life which implies or suggests that we are pretending to be Romanists or that we recognize any authority or anything peculiarly Catholic in the Roman Court or in the Latin language and culture.
152. What is the answer to Where was your Church before the Reformation?
The traditional answer is, Where was your face before it was washed? A more polite way of putting it would be, Where was Virginia before George Washington? Where it is now. Virginia, Massachusetts, etc., before the American Revolution were subject to the British crown. Then they ceased to be so, but they were not new states. The provinces of Canterbury and York, Armagh and Dublin, were subject to the Pope before the Reformation. Then they ceased to be subject to him, but they were the same Churches that they had been before.
153. Why does “Catholic” usually mean “Roman”?
Because Romanists claim it for themselves and deny the title to all other Christians. But no Anglican should ever use “Catholic” in the sense of “Romanist” or allow anyone else to do so in his presence without protest. If the Roman Communion is Roman, it is not universal. It claims to be the whole Church, whereas the Anglican Communion claims to be only part of the Church.
154. On what ground were Anglican (Episcopal) Ordinations declared invalid by the Pope?
On the ground that the Church of England did not intend that its ministers should be “sacrificing priests” and that the words “for the office and work of a bishop” were not used in the Anglican consecration service before 1661.
These objections were fully answered by the Reply of Archbishops Frederick Temple and Maclagan, as well as by Dr. Gregory Dix and others. I cannot go into details here but two things ought to be said: (1) The Bull Apostolicae Curae of Leo XIII assumed that Rome was right and that so far as the Anglicans differed from it they were wrong. The only question was whether they were so far wrong that Rome could not recognize their ordinations. The Pope’s answer was that they were, and therefore their ordinations could not be recognized. We do not admit that Rome was right. We say that Rome had altered the proportion of the various functions of the ministry: that while the priest had indeed to lead his people in sharing the self-offering of Christ in Heaven, that is not his only function; therefore we changed the rite, which as a self-governing Church we were entitled to do, to correct this proportion. It does not matter to us whether the Pope recognizes our ordinations or not; it makes no difference to anyone but his own subjects, for we do not recognize his authority. (2) The Pope was bound, on his own principles, to take such action as would lead the greatest number of persons to become Romanists; for he believed that salvation could be found only in obedience to himself. He was advised that, if he rejected Anglican ordinations, many Anglicans would become Romanists, but if he recognized their ordinations, they would stay where they were. He could be expected to act only according to the advice given to him, but it turned out to be entirely mistaken.
155. Are there any discussions for reunion or intercommunion with Rome going on now?
Not as far as I know. Reunion with Rome is impossible for this reason: The Roman Communion is held together by belief in the supremacy and infallibility of the Pope. If the Pope were to admit that he was wrong by giving up these doctrines he would shake the faith of millions and break up his Communion, for the people have been taught to base all their belief on the Pope’s authority. But we could never, even for the sake of reunion, submit to these Romanist beliefs, for reasons which have been given above, nor surrender our religious and political freedom.
156. How did the Church get divided into Anglican and Roman in Henry VIII’s reign?
157. Was Henry VIII the founder of the Church of England?
No. But to answer these questions fully would require a history of the English Reformation. Briefly, what happened was this: The great revolt against the religious, political, and economic system of medieval Europe had begun in Germany and was already finding adherents in England when Henry VIII, who had no sympathy with it, determined to get rid of his wife, Katharine of Aragon, because she had not borne him the male heir needed for the security of the kingdom and because he wished to marry Anne Boleyn, with whom he had become infatuated. The Pope would not grant a decree of nullity for Henry’s marriage with Katharine, because he was afraid of the Emperor Charles V, who was Katharine’s nephew. Henry therefore threw off obedience to the Pope, made himself master of the clergy, dissolved the monasteries, and confiscated their property. He had a translation of the Bible set up in every parish church, and this greatly promoted the Reformation because men found that much that they had been taught by the Church had no foundation in the Bible. During Henry’s life no great change was made in doctrine, worship, or organization, but under his son, Edward VI (1547–1553), the first English Prayer Book was issued, and used everywhere, and other changes were made through the influence of the foreign Reformers. When Edward VI died, Mary, the daughter of Henry VIII and Katharine of Aragon, brought the Church and nation back to the obedience of Rome and tried to undo all that her father had done. On Mary’s death in 1558 Elizabeth I, the daughter of Henry and Anne Boleyn, succeeded her. Elizabeth, under pressure from her people, among whom the Reformation had now made great progress, restored most of what had been done under Edward VI. In the meantime the Council of Trent (1545–1563) had tightened up the Roman system of faith and order, made tradition equal to Scripture as a source of dogma, and issued the Creed of Pope Pius IV, by which many medieval beliefs against which the Reformers had revolted were declared for the first time to be necessary dogmas. Elizabeth and her people had to choose between the Reformation and the new system of Trent; they had no hesitation in choosing the Reformation. But during the whole period the old faith and order continued: the succession of bishops was maintained, the vast majority of the clergy and laity accepted the Reformation settlement. Those who wished to destroy the old order, and set up a new sect on the model of Geneva, struggled to do so for a hundred years. They were finally defeated in 1660, when many of them seceded and formed the Presbyterian, Congregationalist, and Baptist sects.
It is absurd to call Henry VIII the founder of the Church of England. Even the final break with Rome did not take place till 1570, when Pope Pius V excommunicated Elizabeth I and all who adhered to her. This was inevitable, since they had refused to submit to the Council of Trent.
158. Do the difficulties between us and Rome really matter?
There is only one Church. It is of the utmost importance to be a full member of that Church, outside of which no one can live the full Christian and Catholic life. We believe that the Episcopal or Anglican Church is for us the true Church, that God has placed us in it, and that we have no right to leave it. No one can belong to the Roman Communion without accepting the papal claims and dogmas (see Question 151). If we believed them to be true, it would be our duty to become Romanists. Since we are convinced that they are not true, that they are contrary to Scripture, history, and reason, and that they refuse the freedom to which every Christian has a right, we could never say that they are true; even if the Anglican Communion did not exist, we could never be Romanists.
159. Am I right in thinking myself as Catholic as the Romanists?
Yes; in some respects more Catholic, because you are not required to submit to uncatholic dogmas. But if you wish to be regarded as Catholic you must be as faithful to the fundamental faith and practice of the Catholic religion as the Romanists are.
160. What are the best talking points in defense of the Catholicity of Anglicanism and the validity of its priesthood against Roman propaganda?
Never enter into controversy with Romanists if you can help it; it serves no useful purpose, and needless controversy is bad for the soul. We have no wish to convert to our religion Romanists who are content where they are; therefore we have nothing to gain by controversy. But if you are forced to enter into controversy, always take the offensive. Whether we are right or wrong, it is certain that Rome is wrong; our Lord never gave to St. Peter any such position as the Pope now claims, nor did the Apostles or anyone else for centuries recognize that He had, nor was St. Peter ever Bishop of Rome, nor are the popes his successors. The validity of Anglican ordinations is a side issue, about which it is futile to argue. If the Pope were what he claims to be, his word would be final and the question would be settled. We deny that he is what he claims to be or that he has any authority to judge in such a matter (especially as he is an interested party). No one else denies the validity of the Anglican priesthood. If the Pope’s claims are false (as we can prove them to be), the question of Anglican ordinations is not worth discussing.
161. Was there a break in the Anglican episcopal succession, and if so, when?
No; the succession was carefully preserved. The Romanists say that Matthew Parker, the first Archbishop of Canterbury consecrated with the English rite, was not properly consecrated. We have a full contemporary record of this consecration. Matthew Parker was consecrated in Lambeth Palace Chapel on December 17, 1559, by four bishops, Barlow of Bath and Wells, Scory of Chichester, Coverdale of Exeter, and Hodgkins of Bedford. There is a second line of succession through Hugh Curwen, Archbishop of Dublin, 1555–1567; and a third through Marcantonio de Dominis, Archbishop of Split in Dalmatia, who joined the Church of England in 1616 and became Dean of Windsor. All present Anglican bishops have a succession through all these three.
Chapter Thirteen – The Church and the Sects
162. Should we consider merger with another church when we have two different schools of thought in our own church?
There are at least six schools of thought in the Anglican Churches, but they shade into one another with various crosscurrents. There are no clear-cut divisions. Similar schools of thought, in one form or another, are found in all the great Christian Communions, but it is only among us that they show themselves in worship. This is a feature of the Anglican Communion with which all workers for reunion must reckon, but the differences may be modified by mutual understanding, as we see happening in England. We cannot amalgamate (or form a merger) with any other part of the Church; reunion must be based on agreement in necessary dogma, but even then we live in different countries, or at least serve different nations with different languages and traditions (as in the case of the Polish National Catholic Church – see Question 130). Amalgamation with any sect is impossible except on condition that it shall accept the whole faith and order of the Church and give up the notion that a Christian may believe and do what he pleases.
163. Why cannot I do my bounden duty in the Methodist Church as well as I can in my own?
You are a Churchman and not a Methodist, and your duty is to the society of which you are a member. But besides this, the Methodists are not a Church, but a society founded by John Wesley. He knew this or he would not have written in the last year of his life (I have seen the letter in his own handwriting, in the British Museum): “If the Methodists leave the Church, God will leave them.” You have the privilege of being a full member of the true Catholic Church. Your duty is to join in the worship which it alone has Divine authority to offer. No doubt God accepts the worship of the Methodists, but He will not accept yours if you neglect your duty to His Church.
164. When I have time I shall read the Bible right through. Then I shall really know which church is the right one and shall not have to take my priest’s word for it.
To read the Bible straight through is not an intelligent way to read it. The Bible consists of over sixty separate books, and you must give separate attention to each of them. You will need the help of priests and other scholars or you will not understand what you read (Acts 8:31). Even so, to read the Bible through will not teach you which is the true Church, for all Churches and sects accept the authority of the Bible; they disagree only about its interpretation. There are in practice only three beliefs among which you have to choose:
(1) the Church is visible, and the papal claims are true.
(2) the Church is visible, and the papal claims are false.
(3) the Church is invisible, and all sects are equal.
The first belief is Roman, the second Anglican (and Orthodox), the third is that of the sects. You would have to read not only the Bible but a great deal of Church history in order to choose between them, for each of them is believed by its adherents to be based on the Bible. If you have not time nor capacity to undertake the necessary study, you had much better stay in the denomination in which you were brought up, follow its teaching and practice faithfully, and leave controversy alone.
165. Are not all churches much the same? What does it matter to which one I belong?
There is only one Church, the Catholic Church, which was refounded by our Lord as the New Israel, and which derives its authority from Him. It matters very much that we should say only what we believe to be true. I am an Anglican priest, and I believe that the Anglican Churches are part of the Catholic Church, the part in which God has placed me; whereas I am entirely convinced that the papal claims are false and contrary to Scripture; if possible, I am even more entirely convinced that the sects’ doctrine of the Church is false, unscriptural, and disastrous. People who take the trouble to find out which belief is true will tell you that all churches are not the same, and that it does matter which one you belong to.
166. If we are made members of the Church by Baptism, what right have we to withhold the Lord’s Supper from any baptized Christian in good standing? Did not our Lord say, “All of you drink of this”?
Our Lord said so indeed, but only to the Apostles when no one else was there (St. Matthew 26:20, 37). Baptism alone does not make us full members of the Church; it requires to be completed by Confirmation. The Church is a society; the bishops are its officers, and the Holy Communion is the highest privilege of membership. No one may be admitted to that privilege who does not recognize the authority of the officers of the society. The clergy are stewards of the mysteries (I Cor. 4:1; I Peter 4:10). It is their duty to see that no one is admitted to the Lord’s Table who is not entitled to be there. Only those may receive Communion who are confirmed (or ready and willing to be confirmed) and under the care of the bishop of the diocese or some other bishop who is in full communion with him (that is, each acknowledges the other). In our case that means Anglican and Old Catholic bishops.
167. Why can’t anyone receive Communion who loves God and his neighbor?
We cannot know that anyone loves God and his neighbor. We should have to take his word for it. The Christian religion requires us to be members of the Church. We do not receive Communion just as ourselves, but as members of the Church which is Christ’s Body. We cannot be full members unless we are baptized, confirmed, and subject to the bishops who are the successors of the Apostles. If we are to join in the breaking of bread and the prayers we must accept the Apostles’ doctrine and fellowship (Acts 2:42).
168. Where does the Church stand on open and closed Communion? Why?
169. How do priests who not only permit but encourage open Communion justify this action?
170. Is it permissible to bring a baptized member of another religious body, such as a Methodist minister, to Communion?
171. Who speaks for the Episcopal Church in offering Communion to members of other Protestant faiths? What is the practice of other Anglican Churches?
172. How are we to interpret the Confirmation rubric charitably when communicants of other churches wish to come to our altars?
173. How can those of other faiths be allowed to communicate when they do not believe or have not been confirmed?
174. Why do some priests invite everyone to receive Communion?
175. Why do some churches [i.e., parishes] have open Communion and others restrict Communion to confirmed members?
176. Does the Church have “closed” Communion?
177. Does the Episcopal Church invite members of other Christian Churches to Communion?
178. How can the Confirmation rubric be applied to non-Anglicans? Is it not unchristian to exclude from Communion anyone who wants it?
179. Why do we not welcome all the baptized to Communion, as children of God?
These twelve questions all relate to the same problem and will therefore be answered together.
The rule of the Church is quite clear: “There shall none be admitted to the Holy Communion, until such time as he be confirmed or ready and desirous to be confirmed” (“The Order of Confirmation,” last rubric). This rule is not merely Anglican. The whole Catholic Church has always required four conditions for communicants: (1) Baptism; (2) Confirmation, or at least willingness to be confirmed; (3) submission to the bishops; (4) they must not have been excommunicated. The reason for this is that the Church is a society and the highest privilege of its members is to receive the Holy Communion. The unbaptized are not members at all and are incapable of receiving the Body and Blood of Christ. Those who are not confirmed are not full members. Confirmation is, or should be, preceded by careful instruction; we cannot be responsible for admitting to the most solemn mysteries of our religion those whom the Church has not tested. The bishops are the chief officers of the Church; those who do not accept their authority have no right to privileges which the bishops alone have authority to bestow. Communion is the chief of these. No one may administer it unless he has been ordained by a bishop, and also been licensed or given permission to administer it in that diocese.
The notion that charity requires us to give Communion to anyone who asks for it shows failure to understand what charity is. The Good Samaritan was given by our Lord as an example of charity, of the man who loved his neighbor as himself, even though he belonged to a different religion (St. Luke 10:30–37) – He risked his life to help him, he gave personal service and money, but one thing he did not do: he did not invite him to take part in the sacrifices on Mount Gerizim. That would have been contrary to the religion of them both. We can perform no more charitable action toward our separated brethren than to bring them to accept with us the whole faith and full membership of the Church (which does not mean that we should proselytize them against their will). But if, mistaking sentimentalism for charity, we invite them, or even permit them, to receive Communion without accepting the faith or submitting to the rules of the Church we shall only be encouraging their errors and their separation from the Church.
The false belief which appears to lie behind the desire, or craze, for “open Communion” appears to be that the Covenant of God is made not with us as members of the chosen people (as the Bible clearly teaches) but with us as individuals. It is mistakenly supposed that everyone who has accepted Christ’s offer of salvation is a member of the Church, that he does not have to be baptized or belong to any particular society. The Church is believed to be manifested in a multitude of sects, none of which has any superiority over the others. Some of them do not administer baptism, many of them think it quite unimportant, most of them administer it carelessly. The Communion service appears to be regarded by many of them as only a symbol of love, a memorial of our Lord’s death and nothing more. Therefore to refuse to welcome anyone to share in it is regarded as a refusal of love: like a refusal to shake hands with someone or to dine with him.
The Catholic sacrament of Holy Communion is all this, but it is much more. It is the means by which those who have been made members of Christ’s Body by Baptism, and have received the Holy Spirit in Confirmation, are permitted to share in the sacrifice of Himself which our Saviour continually offers in Heaven. No one is admitted to this tremendous mystery unless he believes the doctrine and obeys the rules which our Saviour gave. Those who are confirmed openly declare their belief, and the Church does its best to assure that all communicants have repentance and faith, as well as charity.
But the Church has no control over the sects. They have their own rules, but some of them appear to exercise no discipline over their members at all. Question 171 speaks of “other Protestant faiths.” There is only one faith, faith in Christ; those who have it are required to accept His teaching and to obey His commands: these include the Creed and Commandments in which candidates for Confirmation are instructed and which they promise to obey; and if they break their promise in a notorious manner they can be, in theory, excommunicated. The Episcopal Church, as has already been shown, is “Protestant” only in the sense of non-Roman. It has nothing in common with the sects, except as far as they share, as most of them do, the fundamental beliefs common to all Christians (including the Roman Communion). We welcome all baptized Christians to be present at our services, including the Holy Communion, but if they wish to receive Communion they must be confirmed and be in fellowship with the bishops.
I am not an American citizen; if I were staying in the United States during a presidential election, no one would invite me, nor should I wish, to vote. If I wished to vote I should have to apply to be naturalized. It is the same with the Church. You must be a full member if you are to have the rights of membership.
In all special and doubtful cases the bishop of the diocese alone can decide who may receive Communion, subject to any conditions laid down by the synods. In England we have foreign, chiefly Lutheran, students, whose beliefs do not differ greatly from ours, and who are far from their own Church. They cannot join the Church of England (though some of them would like to) because there is no Anglican (or Old Catholic) Church in their own country within reach. In such cases the bishop may give them permission to receive Communion, but no priest has authority to do so. In England, Scotland, and Ireland the Confirmation rubric is observed fairly strictly. There are some sentimentalists and some rebels among the clergy. But most people see clearly that it would be difficult to get young people to attend a long series of Confirmation classes, in order to become full members of the Church, if they saw members of the sects admitted to the privilege of full Church membership without any such requirement. There was in the ancient Church a practice called the love feast, or agapē, which survives in the “antidoron” (“instead of the Gift”) in the Orthodox Churches. A piece of unconsecrated bread is given to all who are present at the Liturgy, whether Orthodox or not (I have often received it). Those who wish for a symbol of Christian love, which would not necessarily imply agreement in doctrine or Church order, might well consider reviving the love feast, which has been successfully tried in England by Anglicans and Methodists. But care must be taken that it shall not resemble, or be mistaken for, or be confused with, the Holy Communion.
So far I have referred only to the sects. There is no reason why we should not admit to Communion members of other parts of the Church, except for the rules to which they are subject. The Lambeth Conference has authorized Communion to be given to members of the Eastern Churches, with the permission of their own bishops. This permission has sometimes been given, when their is no Orthodox priest within reach. But the Roman Communion would not give such permission in any case, and forbids its members even to be present at our services. We ought not to encourage anyone to disobey his own Church, which, on its own principles, is quite right to give such directions.
180. Are those outside the historic Church members of the Church?
All baptized persons, if rightly baptized with water in the Name of the Trinity, are members of the Church, and cannot be baptized again. But they are not full members of the Church until they have been confirmed, and they are not full members of the Church if they belong to any sect which does not recognize the authority of the bishops of the Church.
Chapter Fourteen – The Apostolic Succession
181. What do you mean by the Apostolic Succession?
182. Why is the Apostolic Succession (admitting it to be historical) important?
183. What is the importance, historical and theological, of the Apostolic Succession?
The Church on earth is a society. It must therefore have a government and officers who are everywhere recognized. (Those who deny that it is a society see no reason why it should have a universally recognized government.) In modern democracies the government derives its authority from the people, but there is no trace of such a democracy in the New Testament. The Church is not, and never has been, democratic; it is theocratic.
Our Lord appointed His twelve Apostles, whom He had carefully trained for the purpose, to be both witnesses to His resurrection and rulers of His Church (St. Matthew 19:28; St. Luke 22:30). As witnesses they could have no successors; as rulers they had to have successors. In the Acts, and throughout the New Testament, the Apostles are shown as ruling the Church, consulting the other members as constitutional rulers always do. There is no authority in the Church aside from theirs, and they are guided by the Holy Spirit. St. Clement of Rome, the first Christian writer after the New Testament (about A.D. 96), says: “The apostles appointed the first fruits of their labors when they had proved them by the Spirit, as overseers and ministers of those who should believe: and afterwards issued a direction that when these fell asleep, other approved men should succeed to their ministry.” Less than twenty years later St. Ignatius knew of no local Church which had not bishops, priests, and deacons, and these three orders have continued ever since in all parts of the Church.
The Apostolic Succession is important because it is the means, all down the centuries and in all parts of the world, by which the authority given by our Lord to the Apostles has come down to the modern Church. This authority has two functions: to govern the Church and to administer sacraments. All spiritual authority in the Church is derived from the bishops, because they are the successors of the Apostles; there is no other source of authority in the Church. Every priest receives at his ordination the power to celebrate the Holy Communion, to absolve sinners, and to bless in the name of the Church, and the authority to use these powers in a fixed area. The former is given by the bishop’s sacramental authority; the latter by his governing authority. The governing authority can sometimes be delegated; the sacramental authority cannot.
184. What do Episcopalians believe about the Apostolic Succession and the Protestant ministry?
I assume that “Protestant ministry” here means the ministry of the sects, not that of the “Protestant Episcopal Church.” The ministry of the sects is a different kind of ministry from the three orders of bishops, priests, and deacons. The duty of the bishop is to govern the Church and to administer the sacraments; the duty of the priests and deacons is to assist him, with authority derived from him. The function of preaching is not confined to the clergy; laymen are sometimes licensed to preach and priests and deacons (though usually licensed to preach) do not necessarily preach as part of their duty. But the Reformed ministry is a ministry of preachers: its authority, in the Calvinist tradition, is derived from the people, who elect the minister whom they believe to have been called directly by God; in the Methodist tradition, from Conference, which was originally founded by John Wesley and derives its authority from him. Now, the sacramental ministry, as distinct from the preaching ministry, is entirely dependent upon authority. The Communion or the Absolution, which is administered by a man who is not authorized and is known not to be authorized, is of no value at all. On the other hand, the preacher who preaches without authority may still edify his hearers. Authority is absolutely necessary to the priest; it is important, but not absolutely necessary, to the preacher. The priest must have been ordained by a bishop who has received authority through succession from the Apostles, for otherwise no one will recognize him as a priest. The preacher in the Church ought to have a license from the bishop, but he does not need to be ordained. Since the sects do not believe that the Church is a single universal visible society, they do not believe it needs a universally recognized ministry; and they deny that the minister is any more a priest than the layman. They feel no need for, and so do not believe in, the Apostolic Succession.
The ministry of the sects, then – Presbyterian, Congregationalist, Baptist, and Methodist – is not in our eyes invalid or defective; it is a different kind of ministry from the ministry of bishops, priests, and deacons; it has different functions and a different kind of authority; and it is irregular, because its authority is not apostolic. The reason why many people do not recognize this is that they have been taught that the Anglican Churches are “Protestant” and that their ministry is the same as that of the sects; they do not realize that the Anglican ministry of bishops, priests, and deacons is the same ministry, with the same origin, authority, and functions, as the ministry of the Roman and Eastern Communions, and therefore different from the ministry of the sects. Two facts show quite clearly that this is true: The preface of our Ordinal (American Prayer Book) says: “It is evident unto all men, diligently reading Holy Scripture and ancient Authors, that from the Apostles’ time there have been these Orders of Ministers in Christ’s Church – Bishops, Priests, and Deacons. ... And therefore ... that these Orders may be continued ... no man shall be accounted or taken to be a lawful Bishop, Priest, or Deacon, in this Church, or suffered to execute any of the said Functions, except he be called, tried, examined, and admitted thereunto, according to the Form hereafter following, or hath had Episcopal Consecration or Ordination.” The other fact is that ministers of the sects have to be ordained by a bishop if they are to be Anglican deacons or priests, whereas Romanist deacons or priests who come to us (and many more do than is commonly realized) are accepted by us as they are. If ministers and members of the sects (and many full members of the Church who ought to know better) understood this, they would not expect us to give them privileges which they would never expect (and certainly would not receive) from the Roman or Eastern Communions.
185. Discuss the development of the orders of the ministry and the Apostolic Succession.
186. Which came first, bishops or priests?
The Apostles came first: all forms of the regular ministry, which did not include prophets, were derived from the Apostles. In Acts 6:6 we find the Apostles laying hands on the seven (traditionally known as deacons, though they are not called so). In Acts 14:23 St. Paul and St. Barnabas appoint “elders” (priests) in each city, as the regular resident ministry. In Acts 13:5 St. Mark (“John”) is “minister” (deacon) to the two Apostles. In Acts 20:17 St. Paul addresses the elders of Ephesus, and in verse 28 he calls them “overseers” (bishops). These three words, “episkepos” (overseer), “presbyteros” (elder), and “diakenos” (minister), had not yet acquired their later technical sense of bishops, priests, and deacons. This fact has misled many, from St. Jerome in the fourth century onward, into thinking that in the New Testament bishops and priests are the same officers. The evidence shows that in the apostolic age the Apostles were the first order of the ministry (I Cor. 12:28); they, like pioneer missionary bishops now, had no fixed sees, but went about founding Christian communities in different places. In each city the community or local church was governed by a group of “elders,” also called “overseers,” assisted by “deacons.” So St. Paul addresses the overseers (bishops) and deacons in Phil. 1:1, and in I Tim. 3:1 and Titus 1:7 the “bishop” evidently belongs to the second order, for Timothy and Titus are in control, like Apostles. These are just the sort of letters that might be sent from the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Presiding Bishop to a young missionary bishop. In St. Ignatius’ letters, at most fifty years later, the Apostles are all dead, the pioneer period is over, there is one bishop with his priests and deacons in each city. St. Ignatius knows of no other form of church government; “without these,” he says, “there is not even the name of a Church” (Letter to the Trallians). (I use the word “priest,” which is derived from presbyter, because the word presbyter is misleading, as it is used by Calvinists in a different sense.) There is no reason to suppose that St. Ignatius’ “presbyters” preached or governed; and they celebrated only in the bishop’s absence.
We do not know precisely how authority was transferred from the Apostles to the bishops; there is no evidence except what St. Clement tells us (see Question 153), but there is no doubt that it was transferred without any controversy. In the New Testament the Apostles are the only source of authority (II Cor. 11:28, etc.): fifty years later, the bishops. There is no other source from which the authority of the bishops can have come; and this agrees with the Jewish precedent, for the rabbis claimed succession from Moses by laying on of hands. From the time of St. Ignatius bishops, priests, and deacons have continued to the present day. In the sixteenth century the Reformers, misinterpreting the New Testament, and knowing nothing of the letters of St. Clement and St. Ignatius, failed to recognize the bishops of their time (who were, in Germany and elsewhere, great feudal princes) as the successors of the Apostles; and they set up a new ministry different from the historic one.
187. Is there any real doubt that the Apostles transferred their authority to others, or that our Lord intended this?
Our Lord seems to have left the organization of the Church to the Apostles, guided by the Holy Spirit. The method of succession was arranged by them. When you see a train entering a tunnel at one end and a train like it coming out at the other end a few minutes later, you do not doubt that it is the same train. In the New Testament the Apostles governed. In St. Ignatius, and ever afterward, the bishops governed. It has always been held that the authority of the bishops comes from the Apostles. There is no reason for doubting it.
188. How do Lutheranism and Calvinism differ from the Churches with Apostolic Succession?
Lutherans consider Justification by Faith alone as the most important of all dogmas. They are inclined to think that questions of church organization are of no great importance. However, in Sweden and Finland the Apostolic Succession was maintained, and more importance is now attached to it than formerly. In Denmark, Norway, and Iceland the first Lutheran bishops were consecrated by John Bugenhagen, who was only a priest, but since then the succession has been carefully preserved. Most other Lutherans do not maintain or claim a succession.
Calvinists believe that the Church is the invisible company of the elect, and they reject the principle of institutional succession. The only kind of succession which they recognize is continuity of belief, which indeed is necessary but not enough. Some Scots claim a “presbyteral succession,” but this claim does not seem to have arisen until long after the Reformation (about 1650), in opposition to Anglican claims, and to have no historical basis because the Presbyterian meaning of “presbyter” is not and has never been intended to be what the Church means, and because the Scots abolished, for a time, the laying on of hands. I cannot here deal with the other beliefs of Lutherans and Calvinists. They differ sharply from one another, and both are divided among themselves.
189. What is the difference between the professional ministry and the priesthood of all believers?
The word “priest” represents two Greek words, “presbyteros” and “hiereus.” In the Catholic Church, and therefore in the Anglican provinces of it, they both refer to the same office. Hitherto I have used the word “priest” in the first sense, as a member of the second order of the ministry. But a bishop or a priest is also “hiereus,” a man who offers sacrifices (though the word is not applied to the Christian ministry in the New Testament, because its first readers, accustomed to Jewish and heathen sacrifice of animals, would have been misled). The only sacrifice in the Christian religion is the offering of Jesus Christ (Heb. 3:1, 4:14, 5:5, etc.).
Offered was He for greatest and for least,
Himself the Victim, and Himself the Priest.
(Ancient Irish Hymn, 7th century)
He was slain on the Cross, presented His life to the Father at the Ascension, and, since everything in Heaven is eternal, continues to do so forever, as it is written of Him: “Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec” (Heb. 5:6).
The Christian Church is the Body of which He is the head, and therefore its members are permitted to take part in the offering of Himself, and to offer with it themselves and all they are and have. The only passage which refers to the corporate priesthood of the Church is I Peter 2:9 (with the highly symbolical texts of Rev. 1:6 and 5:10) and it is a quotation from Exodus 19:6. The priesthood of the New Israel, as of the Old Israel, is a corporate priesthood. The ordinary Israelite was not, as an individual, a priest, as the stories of Korah (Num. 16) and Uzziah (II Chron. 26:18) show; and the Christian layman, by himself, is not a priest, any more than he is a king: he is a member of a society which shares the royal and priestly functions of Jesus Christ its Head.
This priestly function is chiefly exercised in the Holy Eucharist. The Christian priest (hiereus) is the organ by which the Church joins in the one sacrifice of our Saviour in Heaven. He alone is authorized to lead the local church in the offering of this sacrifice; it cannot be offered without him, as a man without eyes cannot see or without ears cannot hear. But the priest cannot offer the sacrifice by himself; no priest may celebrate the Eucharist by himself, without a congregation; nor may he do so (except in emergency) without the authority, direct or indirect, of the bishop, who represents the whole “college” or body of bishops throughout the world, the modern representatives of the Apostles. It would be more correct to speak of the “ministerial” rather than the “professional” priest. The clergy have a right to be paid for their services (I Cor. 9:1–11), but in the ancient Church, and in some countries today, especially under Communist governments, priests have another profession, such as physician or engineer, and are paid for that and not for their work as priests. It is, however, generally considered that the priest’s work should normally occupy all his time, and therefore the priesthood is thought of as a profession.
Chapter Fifteen – The Sacraments in General
190. Are the sacraments absolutely necessary or just a better means to salvation?
They are absolutely necessary to membership in the Church, and to present salvation (Question 81). “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (St. John 3:5). “As many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death” (Rom. 6:3). “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life” (St. John 6:53, 54).
191. What is meant by “generally necessary to salvation”?
“Generally” means for all persons, as “General Thanksgiving” means giving thanks for all things. Everybody need not be married or ordained, but everybody must be baptized and a communicant, if he is to take part in the life of the Church. Salvation here means present salvation (see Question 81).
192. Does the Episcopal Church teach that there are two sacraments or seven?
There are two sacraments, Baptism and Holy Communion, which were instituted by Christ Himself; He commanded the use of water in one, bread and wine in the other. These sacraments are universally necessary to salvation (see Questions 190, 191). The Church Catechism and Article 25 state the Church’s teaching. There are also five other rites which are commonly called sacraments: Confirmation, Penance, Holy Orders, Matrimony, and Unction of the Sick. They have no visible sign commanded by Christ, nor are they (except Confirmation, without which Baptism is not complete) necessary for everybody, but they certainly convey grace. The word “sacrament” does not occur in the New Testament. The sacraments have been usually reckoned as seven since the twelfth century, but to believe that there are exactly seven sacraments is not necessary to salvation; it is a widespread and highly probable opinion.
193. Why is there such a difference in the sacraments of our Church? How are they comparable to those of other churches?
This question is not clear. The sacraments of the Church are the same everywhere. They are differently administered, but the necessary conditions are: Form (the words said), Matter (the substance used), Minister (one authorized to administer them), Subject (one capable of receiving the sacrament, e.g., a baptized person), and Intention. Most of the sects recognize two sacraments only, and they differ widely in their doctrine, from the Church and from one another. Many of them either do not use sacraments at all or do not think them necessary to membership. (The Lutherans recognize three sacraments, Baptism, the Sacrament of the Altar, and Penance. Their teaching about these differs little from that of the Church.)
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