Proclaiming the Gospel Through the Liturgy:
The Common Prayer Tradition and Doctrinal Revision
By Peter Toon
The Prayer Book Society Publishing Company, 1993
PREFACE Through Chapter 5 – this page below
Offices, Rites and Liturgies. Structure and Doctrine.
1. THE TWO SHIPS
Travelling by Ship. The Culture Wars. Why Liturgy? New Liturgy. In Summary.
2. DESIGN AND STRUCTURE
1979 BCP (USA). 1985 BAS (Canada). Variety the spice of life. “Common” Prayer. The Lambeth Quadrilateral. The three-legged Stool.
3. AUTHORITY AND ORDER
At the Beginning. The Lambeth Conference of 1948. Communion or Autonomy. Authority in the modern books. Newer is better.
4. WHO IS GOD?
A theological Swing. Classical Trinitarianism. Minimal Trinitarianism. Novel Trinitarianism. Logic. Why important?
5. IDENTIFYING JESUS
Who is He? Traditional Statements. ECUSA. Canada. The Psalter.
6. RECOGNIZING OUR PLACE Chapters 6–End
Individuals and Community. The Church as Community? Individual and Person. Confession of Sin. Holy Matrimony.
7. CRISIS IN LANGUAGE
The Issue. Inclusivism in Liturgy. More on “Man”. Addressing God. Mystery.
8. SACRED AND EFFECTUAL SIGNS
Baptism. The Lord’s Supper.
9. WAS TERRY RIGHT?
Urban T. Holmes. David Ousley. Michael Ingham
10. IN CONCLUSION
The Future. My Task
1. The 1979 Catechism
2. The Fifty Days
INDEX (Omitted for web)
I was tempted to call this book “Ritual Abuse” and thereby specifically point to the sometimes cavalier treatment of the classic Anglican Rites/Services by modern liturgical commissions. However, because my aim is to be positive and commend the biblical Gospel, I chose the present title, which more accurately speaks of my desires and intentions.
Another title, “Conspiracy Unveiled,” was suggested to me. This was meant to indicate a major theme of the contents, resting on two pillars. The first is the claim, made by the late Dr. Urban T. Holmes, that there was an intention within the Standing Liturgical Commission of the Episcopal Church of the USA to deceive this Church concerning the nature and extent of the doctrinal changes incorporated into the 1979 Book of Common Prayer (see further, Chapter 9 below), for the liturgists allowed the faithful to think that the doctrine was much the same as that of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. The second is the cumulative evidence which I present in chapters one through eight concerning the wide scope of the actual doctrinal innovation. Conspiracy is a strong word, but it would have drawn attention to the apparent intention in both the American and Canadian Churches to “deceive” the faithful and make them believe that the new prayer books are different only in structure and language, and not in theology, from the older ones.
I must confess to my reader that in the 1970s when trial liturgies were much in use in my home Church, the Church of England, I took little, serious theological interest in them (even though I wrote a booklet on the proposed revised Ordinal). My time was taken up with teaching divinity, research for and writing of articles and books, and being a part-time parish priest. It was not that the trial services passed me by as ships in the night; rather, seeing them, I did not carefully examine them. I guess the truth is that I trusted the members of the English Liturgical Commission and I heard with sympathy the cry within the Church that liturgical change was inevitable and should not be resisted.
The parishes where I assisted in the 1970s, or where later (in the 1980s) I was the incumbent, all used the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and saw it as their first Prayer Book. Yet I did notice and sometimes commented that some but not all bishops seemed to prefer the new rites and were active in persuading clergy to convince their parishes to use them. Further, I was aware that some clergy were actively involved in removing all traces of the 1662 BCP from their churches and placing in the pews only the new Alternative Service Book of 1980. Even so, since I was busy writing books on subjects not related to liturgy, I must confess that I never examined the new ASB carefully.
However, having arrived in the USA in late 1990, I entered a situation where only rarely could I use in public worship the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, which is the American equivalent of the English 1662 BCP. In fact, I had to use the new American prayer book of 1979 for the daily offices and the daily Eucharist. This situation forced me into a careful examination of the contents of the new generation of Anglican prayer books, which began to appear for trial use in the 1960s. What initially I feared was the case in fact has turned out (in my judgment) to be the case – the changes in structure and doctrine incorporated into the new prayer books of the Anglican Communion have been substantial. I indicated this point, without developing it, in my book commending the classic Common Prayer Tradition, Knowing God through the Liturgy (1992).
This second book from my pen on Anglican Liturgy may be seen as a report on what I discovered about the theology written into the new books in the USA and Canada. It would have been interesting to me to have included the English ASB of 1980 in my study, but I decided that it was best to keep only to North America where the two new prayer books of 1979 and 1985 bear a distinct family resemblance. Since this book is a theological report, it is placed on the table for discussion. I expect that I have made some mistakes and that not all will agree with my judgments on all points. Indeed, I expect some people to be very angry with me, for they have invested much of their lives in the new prayer books and hate to see them criticized! Even so, I look for, and I hope for, some rational discussion.
However, what I have written is what I believe to be the case. I cannot blame anyone else for my errors of judgment! I have discussed the various topics with friends and I have benefitted from their insights, comments and criticisms. So I wish to record my gratitude to the following – Cris Fouse, Charles Caldwell, Sam Edwards, David Ousley, Jonathan Ostman, David Curry, Jeffrey Steenson, David Mills, Rod Whitacre, Charles Lynch, Ted McConnell, Michael La Rue, Jerome Politzer, Gordon Griffith, Robert Shackles and Vita, my wife. Janet Hildebrand and Don Hook deserve a very special word of thanks both for their proof-reading and sub-editing: their command of English grammar and style is exceptional. Crews Giles and Sherry Baker kindly helped me with the technical matters of word processing.
It was a pleasure for me to dedicate my recent book, The Art of Meditating on Scripture, Zondervan, 1993, to Diane and John Ott of the American Prayer Book Society: here I thank them again for their kindness and help in getting this very different book into print. They worked hard to publicize and distribute my Knowing God through the Liturgy in 1992 and for this I remain grateful to them.
This book is dedicated in the first place to Mrs. Virginia Schenck and then, in the second place, to others, who, like Virginia, have been and remain faithful to the historical Faith and Liturgy of the Anglican Way, as that is set forth in the Common Prayer Tradition. May they see in their lifetimes a return to Liturgy which is faithful to Holy Scripture, sacred tradition, and the genius of the Anglican Way.
Each of us probably knows a family which has recently gone through a major upheaval or crisis – be it a move from one place to another, the tragic loss of a member of the family, or a great reduction in income. Yet how many of us have known a family which systematically planned to remove from its life together the actual means which gave it its historical identity and continuity and which kept it together in a meaningful way?
Until the very recent past, the Anglican Communion of Churches (a family and fellowship of independent churches, each of which freely chooses to be in the Communion) was bound together by a common heritage and loyalty. Part of this heritage is the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) first designed and used in England from 1549 to 1552 and then adapted for local use around the world in many editions since then.
Since the 1960s, the decade of tremendous shaking of the inherited values in western society, Anglicans have witnessed the gradual introduction of new forms of worship based on a different structure as well as on a modified doctrine. The new rites have often been called Alternative Services to distinguish them from the regular services of the BCP. First of all, these appeared as trial forms; then they became alternative forms; and finally, practically speaking, they became for many the only forms. So the common bond of common prayer was broken – not merely between national Churches but also within them. Thus one of the major family resemblances of Anglicans has been virtually eradicated. To all with a sense of history and tradition this is regrettable. Today there is very little official support in Canada and the USA for parishes which decide to be authentically Anglican by using the traditional BCP. (The exception is of course within the small Continuing Anglican Churches of North America.)
Offices, Rites and Liturgies
This book is about reforming the liturgy, specifically the printed text of the services used in Christian worship. Further, in particular, it is about the doctrinal content of the texts. At the same time I hope that it will encourage the renewal of liturgy. For the sake of clarity I make a distinction between reforming and renewing the liturgy. It is possible to use a near perfect liturgical text and not to have a renewed liturgy. Renewal occurs through the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in and upon responsive believers who use the written text for the glorifying of their heavenly Father through the Lord Jesus Christ, their Savior. Liturgy is of course the symbolic action of both officiants and congregational participants as well as the reading, singing and praying of the written texts. It would be foolish to suggest that worship through liturgy merely is the equivalent of the printed text of the worship services.
In fact, as the literal meaning of the word “liturgy” (Greek, leitourgia) indicates, liturgy is action involving people (ergon, work; litos, belonging to the people) and not first and foremost a discourse (logos). This perhaps explains why theology as a science in the West (and especially as scholastic theology) has only had a minimal interest in the liturgy. In contrast, in the Byzantine tradition, the Divine Liturgy (= Holy Eucharist) has always been regarded as the most nearly perfect expression of theology, that is, of discourse concerning the Holy Trinity and man’s salvation. In recent times liturgical experts have begun to say that modern theology should arise from the liturgy (i.e. from the liturgy which they write today and not the inherited classic liturgies!), which is a somewhat different claim to that of the Orthodox Churches.
When the BCP was produced by Archbishop Cranmer the word “liturgy” was not in use. Apparently the Latin adjective liturgicus and the noun liturgia were not used of the divine service in the West until 1588. So what we now call liturgy was called De divinis officiis or De ritibus Ecclesiae or De sacris ritibus in the late Middle Ages. Only since the nineteenth century has liturgia (liturgy) come into general use and is now the official word used by the Roman Catholic Church of the rites and offices of divine worship. Defined by Vatican II in its Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, liturgia is “an exercise of the priestly office of Jesus Christ.” This is because “in the liturgy, by means of signs perceptible to the senses, human sanctification is signified and brought about in ways proper to each of these signs” and “the whole public worship is performed by the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, that is, by the Head and His members.” In other words, under the veil of visible, efficacious signs there is a meeting or encounter between the Holy Trinity who saves and sanctifies the Church and the Church which responds by offering her worship to her God. So the liturgy is a divine and human work – first and foremost a work of God and, secondly, a (dependent) work of man.
In the New Testament the Greek nouns leitourgia and leitourgos (verb, leitourgein) are used of the service of God rendered by the priests and Levites in the Temple (Luke 1:23; Heb.9:21; 10:11), of Christian worship (Acts 13:2), of Jesus Christ, the High Priest in heaven, as the minister (leitourgos) of the holy things (Heb.8:2), and of His service as Mediator as a “liturgy” (Heb.8:6). This usage reminds us that no definition of liturgy will suffice which does not include the concept of worship being offered to the Father in, with, and through the exalted Lord Jesus Christ.
The particular liturgical texts which are the focus of this study are those produced in North America – the official prayer book of the Episcopal Church of the USA and the alternative service book of the Anglican Church in Canada. The Episcopal book known as the 1979 Book of Common Prayer replaced the traditional volume, the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. Though their titles are identical, the books are as different as chalk is from cheese, for the 1979 book belongs to the new order of books of “Alternative Services.” It would have been better had the Episcopal Church called this book by another name for it is not common prayer but rather varied prayer.
The Canadian Anglican Book, correctly named the 1985 Book of Alternative Services (BAS), is not yet the official prayer book of the Church in Canada. It exists alongside the traditional book, The Book of Common Prayer, whose last edition was 1962. The American BCP (1928) and the Canadian BCP (1962) have much in common, as also do the American BCP (1979) and the Canadian BAS (1985). In fact the Canadian BAS owes much to the 1979 BCP.
Perhaps here is the best place to state that I shall call those whose profession is liturgics (from the Greek adjective, leitourgik) by the name of liturgists. I realize that “liturgist” can mean either a student of liturgy or a celebrant of the liturgy but in this book I use only the first meaning. So for me a liturgist is a student of the historical development, essential structures, contents, effects and manifestations of the liturgy. It hardly needs to be said that to be good at this he must have a great variety of linguistic skills and much learning in theology and culture.
In a previous book from this publisher, entitled Knowing God through the Liturgy (1992), I sought to show the excellency of the texts of the liturgy contained in the traditional Anglican prayer books as a means of approaching, having fellowship, with and worshipping the Lord our God. I made the point that renewal by the Holy Spirit is necessary for these classic texts to be the sphere wherein God opens the windows of heaven to let us see the throne of grace.
Structure and Doctrine
In this book I seek to show the serious doctrinal deficiencies of the new type of prayer books. I do not claim that it is impossible for orthodox Christian believers to use them, and I do not state that they are completely heretical. What I do claim is that they reflect the malaise of the theology and spirituality of the 1960s and 1970s and so lack doctrinal clarity and integrity despite the fact that they may reasonably claim to be well arranged upon an ancient pattern. Since my interest and concern is theological, and since I have no expertise in the technicalities of liturgy, the substance of the book is primarily doctrinal. Nevertheless, I cannot write about the doctrine within the Rites without commenting on the structure of the Rites. It is, of course, possible to have a bad or poor structure for the texts of worship and yet for the doctrine contained in them to be wholly orthodox. Then, also, it is possible for the reverse to be true – good structure and poor doctrine. I have tried to write so that any intelligent person who is interested in the issues raised will be able to follow my comments on both the structure of the services and their doctrinal content. In my argument and presentation, however, it is the doctrine and not the structure on which I particularly focus.
It has been claimed that the leading candidate for the ugliest issue in theology today is certainly heresy. If you or I saw a person coming our way who we suspected might raise the question of heresy with us, we would probably steer clear of him or her. To take doctrine seriously and to wish to distinguish between false and true doctrine, good and bad theology, and imprecise and precise formulations is not much in vogue these days. Regrettably, the words of Paul seem so remote: “Even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a Gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:8). Today there is little sense of orthodoxy and heresy but a general sense of this and that opinion. Modern theology seems to be in the business of new visions, alternative approaches, and creating something different, not of conserving the Faith once delivered to the saints. Yet orthodoxy, that of the apostles and the ecumenical councils, always stands in an intrinsic relation with heresy (hairesis – attachment to some teaching other than the delivered and received tradition of Faith). Orthodoxy exists to clarify the difference and distinction between the apostolic faith and other teaching (hairesis). The Council of Nicea (325) not only declared the Faith in its Creed but it also set forth anathemas to make clear what it rejected. To teach the truth as it is in Jesus Christ requires also that the untruths about Him be declared and rejected. Today, to engage in the latter is to ensure one’s unpopularity.
Thomas C. Oden has much that is valuable to say on this topic and he writes:
When a theologian forgets the distinction between heterodoxy and orthodoxy, it is roughly equivalent to a physician forgetting the difference between disease and health, or axe and scalpel, or a lawyer forgetting the difference between criminality and corpus juris. Yet it is just this distinction that theology has over the past two centuries of alleged progress systematically forgotten to make. A long chain of regrettable results has followed for pastoral care, biblical studies, preaching, Christian ethics, and the mission of the church (After Modernity... What?, 1990, p.59).
We encounter this chain daily in the liberal denominations of North America and Europe.
For many, apparently, as long as a form of words evokes good feelings, it is often deemed to be appropriate and useful, even if the literal meaning of the text is deficient. My concern with the text of the liturgies is that of whether or not they contain Christian truth. Are the statements made about God in prayers and praises and in acclamations and antiphons actually true to the witness of Scripture and of the early Church? Do they faithfully convey that teaching which may be called biblical and catholic doctrine? In other words, I take seriously the Latin aphorism Lex orandi: lex credendi; “the law of praying is the law of believing.” And, I ask: Is it possible to conclude what is the Faith of the Church from what she says and how she says it when she worships the Lord her God?
I realize that the claim is often made these days that “the law of believing” can only be recognized if it is accepted that the texts are integral parts of the action and the mystery which is liturgy: thus the statement, summary and explication of the lex credendi must be based on the interpreting of the whole context. Even if I concede this point, which I am prepared to do, I cannot see how it makes any difference to the meaning of statements which are doctrinal in character – e.g. creeds, prefaces to eucharistic prayers, catechetical answers in the rite of baptism and so on. For example, standing to say the Creed does not change the meaning of the text even if the action of standing enriches or dramatizes that meaning. Likewise the gestures of the priest as he offers the prayers may add appropriate emphasis; but, it does not change the actual meaning of the text.
As we approach the year 2000, the Anglican Communion of Churches seems to be falling apart. Further, there is talk of more revision of existing prayer books in the direction of loose-leaf resource books. I offer my theological critique of the relatively new books as a contribution towards preparing future books which are at once traditional and modern. Modern in that they are for Anglicans of the twenty-first century and traditional in that they continue the biblical witness of the Books of Common Prayer which have been at the very center of the via Anglicana since 1549. As one who wholly supports the Common Prayer Tradition, I am in no way opposed to reforming the traditional liturgy within clearly established principles. What I am against is what happened in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s – the nearly total rejection of the Common Prayer Tradition in favor of what are increasingly being seen as half-digested ideas concerning the structure and content of liturgy.
For the minority in North America within the Anglican Way who want to preserve its biblical, catholic, and reformed liturgical character, I cannot see any other way than a return to the Common Prayer Tradition. A genuine renewal of this form of liturgy is needed! The church can set the context for such renewal in one of several ways – e.g., to use the latest edition of the Book of Common Prayer (1928 USA; 1962 Canada) sincerely, honestly, and prayerfully; to render the latest edition in modern English and use that form to the glory of God; to use the BCP with additions – as in the American Missal; and carefully to revise and develop the latest BCP within its own ethos and principles (which will take time). I favor the last possibility as the long-term goal.
Of course I accept that preserving, enlarging, and renewing the Common Prayer Tradition will be possible only when there is a renewal of biblical and patristic doctrine in Anglicanism and/or if a division occurs within the Anglican Way, leading perhaps to two rival worldwide Communions. There would then probably be two different forms of and approaches to liturgy: one Orthodox, confessing the LORD as a Trinity in Unity and a Unity in Trinity; and the other Revisionist, tending towards either Unitarianism or Pantheism.
I hope for the renewal of the whole Anglican Communion. Yet I see that the way of the new Prayer Books is a slippery way, and it seems to be one which by its very nature has the effect of taking the Church ever further away from the Scriptures, and from evangelical faith and Catholic dogma and practice. Before it is too late and the classical Anglican Way is lost, there needs to be a genuine reform of the liturgy in North America, and this means the dismantling of the mindset which produced the 1979 and 1985 books. I offer this book to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ as a contribution to the genuine revival of the Common Prayer Tradition in North America. May He be pleased to use it (with all its errors and weaknesses) in His providence to stir up the wills of His faithful people to work for the reform and the renewal of the worship offered unto Him by those whom He has called into the Anglican Way of Christianity.
1 THE TWO SHIPS
This is a book about the theological content of two types of prayer book now in use in the Anglican Communion of Churches. I shall only refer to examples of the two types in North America, but much of what I have to say applies to Great Britain and other places where Anglicans are to be found. To introduce the theme and convey the essence of what I have to say, I shall tell a story about two types of ships.
Travelling by Ship
In 1549 a fine ship was launched in England. Its design was a modification of a well-tested and tried earlier model. Its structure and fittings were made of the finest materials by the best craftsmen. Named the ship of Common Prayer, it took people on voyages through the oceans of life from Egypt to Canaan, from darkness to light, and from hell to heaven. From time to time this good ship put into harbor for refitting and modifications. So good was its design that similar ships were made and launched in other countries so that they too could take people on voyages through the oceans of history to the promised land. At the end of the twentieth century this small fleet of ships is still sailing and achieving what originally they were built to be and do. They still cross the seas with grace and in safety and enter dry dock for minor refitting.
Recently, competitors to these reliable and excellent ships have been built and launched into the oceans of life. The new ships are not constructed to last long, for their owners intend to replace them by even more modern ones within a decade or two. So they are named BAS or ASB (Book of Alternative Services or Alternative Service Book) and they are made not of the finest, but of serviceable yet second-best materials. Further, unlike the older ships which have only one major deck with glorious staterooms, the new ones have six or more decks with similar but not identical state-rooms in order to give the passengers the widest possible choice of the form of travel from darkness to light. For a variety of reasons but chiefly because of the input of clergy, the new ships are attracting the greatest number of passengers. However, for the higher fare the older ships offer the best food, the best staterooms and the safest way to the promised land. So, as they say, you get what you pay for. On the older ship there is the experience of the centuries, the finest setting and the best food and comforts, while on the newer ship there is fast food, minimal comfort, and the hope that the ocean will be crossed safely.
So there is competition on the high seas of life between the two types of ship.
Such is my story. I hope it helps to establish what I am writing about and what the issue is between the two types of prayer book. I sometimes explain to Christian friends, who do not use prayer books or set forms of worship, that Anglican (Episcopal) Christians are participating in the culture wars of our time through the realm of liturgy. They usually reply by asking not only why liturgy (a set form of worship) is necessary but also why liturgy should be caught up in the culture wars. And some add, “By the way, what are the culture wars?” So let us start right there.
The Culture Wars
The culture wars about which much has been written recently have been well defined in First Things of March 1992 as follows:
We are two nations: one concentrated on rights and laws, the other on rights and wrongs; one radically individualistic and dedicated to the actualized self the other communal and invoking the common good; one viewing law as the instrument of the will to power and license, the other affirming an objective moral order reflected in a Constitution to which we are obliged, one given to private satisfaction, the other to familial responsibility, one typically secular, the other typically religious; one elitist, the other populist.
Of course at the center of the culture wars of the 1990s is the question of abortion, which creates debate and fury over the nature of human life, individually, in society and before God. And it is a fierce debate in which there appears to be no middle ground. So the culture wars are not merely a religious versus a secular mindset but sometimes are an orthodox religious versus a secularist religious mindset – as we shall see below.
In the churches the culture wars are certainly felt in terms of the new morality seeking to eclipse the old morality (e.g., in sexual relations) and new doctrines and values seeking to replace or minimize the old ones. In churches which use liturgy (e.g., Anglican, Lutheran and Roman Catholic) culture wars also are expressed in the different types of services. New forms of worship, written in popular language and embodying aspects both of the spirit of the age and modern world-views, attempt to oust the old forms which contain excellence in language and orthodoxy in doctrine. It is, I believe, to oversimplify and to misread the situation to say that this “war” is simply a difference in language (e.g., the better or best against the inferior or banal); or only a generation problem in terms of what the old and young each prefer; or merely a matter of saying “you” and “your” instead of “thou” and “thine.” It is in essence both conflict and division on various fronts between two presentations or versions of the Christian Faith, which though they may look alike on first appearance, are in fact very different on careful, close inspection. These two versions have been variously named – traditionalist and modernist, orthodox and liberal, classic and revisionist – but it is difficult to find one adequate way of expressing the divide. This is because at one level it is a split between two forms of the same thing (over doctrine, ethics, and liturgy within one body) and at another is participation in larger cultural movements in America.
In the Anglican Church of Canada the difference or division is expressed through the clash of the classic BCP (last edition, 1962) and the 1985 BAS, while in the Episcopal Church of the USA it proceeds apace through the clash between the classic BCP (last edition, 1928) and the new and mis-named 1979 BCP. I may add that there is a subdivision of this culture war within each of the new books; here it is between the “traditional” form of service (which each book preserves in modified form) and the modern ones (which far outnumber the traditional ones). People who are unable or forbidden to use the older book cling to the "traditional" rite in the new book. Of course, not everyone who belongs to an Episcopal parish or attends an Anglican service of worship is aware of this culture war, but it is safe to say that all committed Anglicans are cognizant of it from time to time, even if they do not call it “culture war” and want to pretend that it does not exist.
Some may claim that in parishes where the new book has been in use for a decade or more, where people have got used to it and where the young generation have known nothing but this Book, the divisions over liturgy are over. A moment’s thought will reveal that this is not so; inclusive language liturgies are knocking at the door wanting to enter; and, at the deeper level of participation in the culture wars of our time, the questions of abortion and types of acceptable sexuality are not far from any congregation – and they are divisive; further, with these questions come others, such as, “What is the right way to address God?” and, “What is the relation of Christianity to other religions?” and, “Is Jesus really the only Way, Truth, and Life?” The fact that these questions are asked in regular denominational publications shows that it is impossible to escape the culture wars of our time.
Within the churches I believe that much of what constitutes the liturgical, doctrinal, and ethical divisions has a further dimension to it. I mean that it is not only a battle between two forms of religious teaching, aesthetics, order, and discipline; it is also in some cases (I do not want to say all cases) a battle between the kingdom of heaven with God’s righteousness and “the world, the flesh and the devil” in unrighteousness. Further, I would argue (and shall in this book) that certain aspects of modern liturgy as expressed in the new books are neither genuinely Christian nor spiritually neutral but are positively contrary to the kingdom of God. For example, some forms of inclusive language belong to this category.
It is in this deeper dimension of the culture wars that we can appreciate what the apostle Paul was telling the church in Ephesus of the spiritual and moral wars in the universe: “We are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (6:12). Since the war is with Satan and his hosts, we are to put on the whole armor of God, especially the “shield of faith” (6:13ff.).
“If prayer books become involved in culture wars, why bother with them?” ask my friends. Why not be like thousands of congregations and have a simple service of hymns, prayers, and readings from the Bible with a good, solid sermon? One major criticism often levelled against written forms of worship, which are followed to the letter, is that they “quench the Holy Spirit” (1 Thess. 5:19, “Do not quench the Spirit”). Paul urged the Christians not to restrain the flow and work of the Holy Spirit in their lives and in the mission of God in which they were involved.
It has often been argued (e.g., with great power by the English Puritans of the seventeenth century) that both using set forms of words and just reciting or reading Scripture without comment or sermon is not being truly open to the Holy Spirit in the present. Such repetition can become mere slavish activity in which the heart is not engaged and in which the mind is not involved. Further, even if there is full engagement with the liturgical text and it is truly spoken as prayer, what if the words are unsound? In all these cases there is a quenching, restraining, and resisting of the Holy Spirit, sent by the Father in Christ’s name to help the people of the household of faith pray to their heavenly Father.
I would maintain that a written liturgy has been, and can still be, a means used by the Holy Spirit to engage God’s covenant people in genuine spiritual and moral encounter with Him through prayer, if certain conditions are fulfilled. First of all, its content must be faithful to the dynamic truth of Holy Scripture, and secondly, that its biblically-based content must be truly believed in “spirit and in truth.” Thus for the true glory of God in worship it is better to have no liturgy at all than to have a poor or bad one; further, even a good liturgy is of no spiritual value for a participant unless its content and flow drop from the mind (being renewed) into the heart (being purified) and through the will (being rectified) into practical expression. In other words the liturgy is addressed to, and is to be received by, the whole person so that he may be encountered by the Lord his God in the dynamic of worship.
The great value of a sound liturgy is that the faithful can begin to memorize it so that they can not only fully participate in liturgical worship but also pray the liturgy at other times, for it is written in their hearts. Most of us are incapable of composing prayers which are worthy of being memorized to be prayed often throughout our lives. How moving it is to be present with a sick or dying person who is able from memory to pray with sincerity such moving Anglican prayers as the General Confession or the General Thanksgiving or one of the shorter collects of the Church Year!
Therefore I agree with Roger Beckwith who, writing of the Church of England and of the Anglican Way, said:
It does not despise freer forms, whether of the traditional Nonconformist or the recent charismatic kind, but it considers that informal prayer-meetings are a more appropriate setting for them. It denies the charge sometimes levelled against liturgical prayer that it is unspiritual; rather, it considers that where liturgical prayer is deliberately biblical, well tested by time and used in a spirit of devotion, it is spiritual and edifying to the highest degree. It is also particularly suited to permanent and universal themes, whereas free prayer is more suited to occasional and individual ones. Being of set form, liturgy can unite worshippers across time and space. (The Church of England: What It is and What It stands for, Oxford, 1992.)
Over the centuries since the beginning of the Common Prayer Tradition with the first BCP (1549) composed primarily by Archbishop Cranmer, a consistent and common argument has been made by Anglicans concerning the Books of the Common Prayer Tradition. This is that there is an excellency to the Liturgy, for not only does it not quench the Holy Spirit, but it is also rooted and grounded in the ethos and truths of Holy Scripture. So where there is a genuine desire to know God and to worship, serve and love Him, the various services become means of grace used by the Spirit Himself. In fact the content is so attuned to the content of Scripture that all who view Scripture as God’s Word written, and are willing to use one or another of the services regularly, find that it/they are truly ways into the personal knowing of God, the Father, through the Son, and by the Holy Spirit. By the written forms of divine service biblical trinitarian theism, the Christian Faith, becomes a living religion.
To make this claim is not of course to say that the Common Prayer Tradition is perfect. To claim that it is excellent is not to insist that it is perfect in every respect. Each of us who have lovingly used it can think of improvements that could be made here and there, additions that would enhance the overall impact and usefulness of it, and perhaps corrections in the light of the teaching of the three ecumenical councils (Constantinople II  & III  and Nicea II ) which followed that of Chalcedon (451). The BCP was initially composed in the sixteenth century when there was great intensity of thought, feeling and action concerning the living God and His salvation together with the right way to worship and serve Him through the Lord Jesus Christ. Further, it arose when the English language was at a high point in its development and when those who composed the liturgy brought to English the knowledge and experience of using classical languages. Thus it is written in memorable English and is pervaded by genuine Christian insight and doctrine. Having been tried and tested in the billows of life over the centuries and having been adjusted here and there (through periods in dry dock), it has become a part of the gifts of God to His people; and it is too wonderful a gift to lose or allow to be unused.
This is essentially what the Bishops of the Anglican Communion said in their Encyclical Letter after the Lambeth Conference of 1948. They wrote:
It is our duty to make the life and witness of our own Communion strong and effective for its own work. To that end we are bound to preserve our unity in the tradition which we have received. Owing to the number and variety of the national Churches, provinces and missionary dioceses within our fellowship, and the great distances which separate them from one another, problems arise which call for the application of a wise and sympathetic strategy. Our organized life will rightly be influenced by local color and national culture, and will, in consequence, develop varied characteristics. But within this diversity it is essential to maintain a unity of faith and order as will preserve its unity of purpose and spirit. We find the authoritative expression of that faith and order in the Book of Common Prayer, together with the Ordinal. This book is the heritage of the whole Communion, and, while revisions of it are made to suit the needs of different Churches, it provides our accepted pattern of liturgical order, worship, and doctrine which is to be everywhere maintained. (Report, p. 23)
I wholeheartedly agree with these sentiments.
Those who advocate the use of new liturgies often make a comment such as this:
The Book of Common Prayer has hardly been used as its original authors intended. Ceremonial subtleties have constantly reinterpreted the liturgical tradition, as indicated by Anglican controversies relating to the location of the holy table, where the priest may stand, the vesture of clergy, the use of liturgical colors, the use of flowers and candles, as well as various physical acts of reverence. The text itself has been reformed in various ways in the prayer books of the different provinces of the Anglican Communion. (BAS, p. 9.)
Certainly the vessel has been in dry dock for refitting on various occasions; certainly Anglicans have had their family quarrels (often bitter ones); and certainly there have been differences in ceremonial and ritual within parishes of the one diocese. Yet until recently virtually all used as the basis for their worship one or another adaptation of the Common Prayer Tradition. Of course there were extremists who insisted either on using the Roman Catholic liturgy or on using no liturgy at all; but they were a minority.
In terms of the history of western culture and the development of the English language, the new prayer books in the U.S.A. and Canada do not inspire confidence! The liturgists have constantly claimed that their work is “modern literary English,” by which they seem to mean that they have eliminated archaic words and phrases. However, what they do not seem to have seen with any clarity is that it is sentences and not words which are the essence of speech, just as it is equations and functions, and not bare numbers, which make mathematics. So what they have given us is a very non-liturgical kind of language which appears to be a modern language of prayer, but is not so. There is nothing memorable about it at all. Apparently the liturgical commissions made little or no use of experts in semantics and language when they constructed their new rites. They did not pay heed to the advice of St. Paul: “Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 1:13).
This situation has been exacerbated by the decision to use texts of Creeds and Canticles provided by the Roman Catholic dominated “international” commissions – the ICEL (RC. only), ICET (ecumenical) and ELLC (ecumenical) – which have tried to cater to some twenty linguistic contexts from Fiji to Tipperary! It has been well said that we need a new prayer in the old Litany – “from international commissions concerned with modern liturgies and all their malignant inventions, good Lord deliver us.” Classic liturgy with its unique form of English is like a precious painting; it should only be touched for the purpose of improvement by experts motivated by both knowledge and love.
Practically speaking, the International Consultation on English Texts (ICET) supplied the following modern translations for the new American and Canadian Books – The Lord’s Prayer, the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, Kyrie, Gloria in exclesis, Sursum corda, Sanctus and Benedictus, Agnus Dei, Gloria Patri, Te Deum, Benedictus, and Magnificat. The texts from the ICET may be read in its publication, Prayers we have in common (1975). The work of the ICET has been taken over by the English Language Liturgical Commission (ELLC), from which the texts for liturgies since 1980 have been taken.
In terms of theology the situation was and is no brighter. Not a few Anglican theologians in the 1960s and 1970s were under the influence of German philosophers and theologians (e.g. Martin Heidegger, Paul Tillich, Rudolph Bultmann and Karl Rahner) whose concerns were not necessarily immediately appropriate or applicable to revising basic, traditional, written forms of Christian prayer. Then, also, in North America specific local influences both contributed to and yet reacted against an exaggerated individualism, pragmatism and empiricism (coming from the general American culture and its own philosophers – Alfred N. Whitehead, William James, and John Dewey). This ethos and mindset hardly prepared theologians and liturgical scholars to perform the delicate task of revising written liturgy, which had its origins in a very different theological and cultural setting.
In England the new theology found a popularizer during the 1960s in John Robinson, Bishop of Woolwich, in his best-selling book, Honest to God, which was widely read in North America. Though it was by no means a great book in style or content, its rejection of orthodox doctrine and its attempt to make popular a revised form of doctrine derived from the teaching of Bultmann, Tillich, and Bonhoeffer. It harmonized with the “let’s change everything” spirit of the 1960s in both Britain and America. Thereby it helped to enforce the desire among North American theologians to get rid of the archaic God (the Tudor deity!) of the Common Prayer Tradition and to form a concept of God and way of approaching Him based on modern consciousness and mid-twentieth-century theology. A God, that is, who is “Being” (so John MacQuarrie) or “the Ground of Being” (so Paul Tillich) and is accessible to all – not the (supposed) God of majesty above the bright blue skies who sternly rebukes sinners on earth, but the accessible, omnipresent, immanent deity who (to use MacQuarrie’s terms) is Primordial Being, Expressive Being, and Unitive Being! (Of course this was a false choice, but such was the way the problem was often stated in the 1960s and on into the 1970s.)
But it was not only theology that was going through dramatic paradigm shifts. The liturgical movement was also entering a new phase through the euphoria caused by the Constitution on the Liturgy from the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965). The original aim of the liturgical movement had been modest, a kind of ecclesiastical response to social changes of the late nineteenth-century – the growth of mass democracy, the rise of universal suffrage, universal education, with some of the cultural and aesthetic interests of post-Romanticism. The center of interest was not reforming the liturgy but renewal, making liturgy “the work of the people” as they became more involved in worship. Yet from the early 1960s the reforming zeal to renew the liturgy took on much more wide-ranging aims and objectives.
Looking back to the Council, Adolf Adam wrote:
It was an event of epochal importance not only in the history of liturgy but in the life of the entire Church when on December 4, 1963 ... the Constitution was accepted as the first conciliar document (2147 ayes and 4 nays). The document makes important statements about the nature and meaning of the liturgy and sets the course for radical reforms. (Foundations of Liturgy, 1992, p.44)
Adam lists the following as the general aims of the document: to foster a new esteem for liturgy; to promote active participation by the faithful; to promote liturgical science and liturgical formation; and to effect a general renewal of the changeable parts of the liturgy.
So it was that not only in Roman Catholicism but also in other Churches traditional rites and offices were subjected to intense criticism and new rites and offices, supposedly based on models found in the worship of the early Church, were created. In particular, the Common Prayer Tradition of the Anglican Way was criticized by those who had been influenced by Gregory Dix. They claimed that it was excessively penitential and did not give sufficient emphasis to the themes of Creation, Incarnation, and Eschatology. Then, also, it did not allow congregational participation and was not sufficiently flexible for modern use.
If one had to choose a single book by an Anglican which influenced Anglican liturgists in turning away from the Common Prayer Tradition in the l960s, it must be The Shape of the Liturgy (1945) by Dom Gregory Dix. He had no time for or patience with Cranmer and the family of books based upon
Cranmer’s BCP of 1549 and 1552. He had no interest in the Reformation of the sixteenth century and regarded Anglican liturgy as parenthetical in the history of liturgy. He set forth a theoretical view for understanding the shape of the Eucharist largely based on The Apostolic Tradition, a third-century work generally attributed to Hippolytus of Rome. That shape, especially of the Eucharistic Prayer, is in essence what modern Anglican liturgies for the Eucharist have followed (see further chapter 8 below).
Of his book, the late Bishop Stephen Neill (one of the most widely-read men I have known), had this to say:
This is in many ways an attractive book. Dix has read widely; his style is clear, and at times rises to considerable heights of eloquence. But he lacks the temper of the scholar. When he told me that he had read law at Oxford, I instantly understood the problem. Dix is always the advocate, witty and impassioned, highly skilled in making the worse appear the better reason. The learned William Telfer wrote the epitaph of the book, when meeting a colleague in the street in Cambridge, shortly after The Shape of the Liturgy appeared, he put the question, ‘Would you say that it is a very good book?’
Such was the dry humor of Telfer. And Neill, commenting on the way forward for Anglican liturgy, insisted that first of all “we must place Dix on a very high shelf, and forget all about him” (“Liturgical Continuity” in No Alternative, ed. David Martin, 1982, p.10).
Further, the liturgical commission of the Church of England officially acknowledged the influence of Dix upon the new generation of rites as it introduced the English Alternative Service Book (1980):
Until Dix’s time, whatever may have been happening unofficially, official thinking does not seem to have gone far beyond shuffling the order of Cranmer’s rite.. .Dix’s Shape... both set this sort of program aside (as not only too modest but actually worse than original Cranmer) and set the agenda and gave motivation for a far more radical approach. Thus post-war liturgical revision is a wholly different story from, say, that of the events culminating in 1927–28 [in England]. (ASB, 1980; A Commentary, p.57)
Therefore, in Britain as well as in North America, the task of liturgical commissions to create new liturgies was set in a context where the only conceivable result would be a totally different form of liturgy from that of the Common Prayer Tradition initiated by Cranmer. The earlier liturgical revisions in England of the period, 1927–28, though rejected by Parliament, were solidly within the Common Prayer Tradition.
The theological context was such that, caught between traditional orthodoxy and the new empirical or existentialist theology from Germany and within America, the liturgical experts were probably rather fuzzy or confused as to their theological aims. Thus they set this partially digested new theology alongside traditional theology within the old forms they revised or the new forms they created with the help of Dix and his successors. They knew that they did not want the theology of the Common Prayer Tradition, but they were not always clear of mind exactly what ought to replace it!
Instead of accepting these realities, the Standing Liturgical Commission of the Episcopal Church, caught up in its exciting task and watching similar tasks in other lands and churches, set about the task in the 1960s of writing a completely new liturgy. Previously the Episcopal Church had intended only a gentle and minimal revision of the 1928 BCP in line with previous minimal revisions in 1789, 1871, and 1892, and in line with what had actually happened in Canada as late as 1959–1962. However, it was not merely minimal; it was also within the same ethos and principles. When this wise course was set aside and the new dangerous course embarked upon, the liturgical commission turned to the “experts” in theology and Bible to see what they were teaching about God, the world, salvation, and sin; they also turned to see what Roman Catholic liturgical experts were saying and doing in revising the Roman liturgy. Roman Catholic scholars, set free by the liberating winds blowing from the Second Vatican Council to do what hitherto they could not do, were proposing a variety of novel ways of updating and modernizing liturgy. Some were good and others bad, some useful and others pretentious. And in many of these revisions, Catholic scholars were being followed by the liturgical experts in a variety of denominations. Change was in the air! It all seemed inevitable. Anyone who reviews the career and writings of the late Massey H. Shepherd Jr., who was at the center of the revision in the Episcopal Church, can see how the winds of change blew upon him and caused him to change direction to become an advocate for the newer-is-better program.
In a short essay published in 1984, Shepherd clearly explained that the structure of the 1979 book owed much to the scholarly reconstruction of the form of the liturgy, and especially of the Easter liturgy, in the “ancient Church” of the second, third, and fourth centuries. He wrote: “The unifying principle of most of the restoration or renewals of liturgy in the 1979 book from the ancient Church is the Paschal Mystery.” And he proceeded to explain that in the third and fourth centuries the whole Paschal Mystery was relived by the faithful once a year on the anniversary of the Lord’s own Passover. This Pascha was a unitary festival that recalled the suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension of the Lord and the gift to His Church of the Holy Spirit. Though centered on the first Saturday and Sunday (Easter), with the most important rite being that of Easter Eve, it actually lasted for fifty days until Pentecost. The 1979 book was the first Anglican book, says Shepherd, to include not only the “ancient rites” of Easter Eve but also ceremonies and devotions of Holy Week from fourth-century practice in Jerusalem. (See Shepherd, “The Patristic Heritage,” in The Historical Magazine, Vol.53. 1984, pp.221ff.)
Liturgists like Shepherd insisted that the developments of the liturgy and the liturgical year after the fourth century were to be judged in the light of their reconstruction of the worship of the “ancient” Church up to the fourth century (i.e., what they call the pre-Nicene period). Therefore, while they have included in the 1979 and 1985 books the Feast of the Ascension (which apparently only developed as a separate festival in the late fourth century), the general effect of their theory is to discount the importance of this festival. For to celebrate the Ascension meaningfully not only requires the break-up of the fifty days into forty plus ten, but also has the effect of challenging their whole theory concerning the Paschal Mystery. Further, to adopt their theory is usually also to claim that “initiation” is complete in baptism, that standing in worship is the norm, and that no confession of sins is permissible in the liturgy of the unitary festival for the whole of the fifty days (see further Chapters three and eight together with Appendix 2).
Thus in the context of American culture the Standing Liturgical Commission created a new liturgy in poor, modernistic English which incorporated “insights” and proposals from the experts in theology and liturgy, while at the same time keeping certain aspects of traditional language and content (thus the existence of Rite I and Rite II in parallel in the 1979 BCP). Under the circumstances, the result of their work could only be a form of liturgy very different from that of the Common Prayer Tradition, even though the revisers had begun from that tradition. Of course it was used experimentally for several years in parishes on a trial basis (in a kind of democratic egalitarianism) before being adopted by the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, U.S.A. in 1979. It is a matter of debate, however, to what extent these trial uses were genuine trials.
People in the pews in the Episcopal Church were misled when their bishops and liturgists told them that there were no changes in basic doctrine, but only changes in language and structure to make liturgy more relevant, especially to the younger generations. So many faithful souls, fed up with changes and experiments throughout the 1970s, were reasonably happy to be told that experiments were over and they now had a permanent book! Others, who had carefully compared the new with the old, knew that they were being misled and badly informed, and so they protested. Regrettably, they were heard but not listened to. The leadership had decided that the 1979 BCP was to come in, and come in it must. Much the same can now be told of the way that the BAS is being used in Canada, even though it is by definition supposed to be subordinate to and an alternative to the Canadian 1962 BCP.
To present what became the 1979 Book to the General Convention the Standing Liturgical Commission chose a liberal evangelical, Charles P. Price. His booklet, Introducing the Proposed Book (1976), provides a gentle, reasonable explanation and commendation of the new liturgy. While he does not tell the whole story about the theological orientation of the new rites, he does indicate that doctrinal change has occurred. Apparently the SLC saw itself as being guided by four criteria or norms for judgment which were (1) the Common Prayer Tradition, especially as found in the BCP; (2) adequacy to the worshipping needs of modern Episcopalian congregations; (3) pre-Reformation liturgical traditions such as the Great Vigil of Easter, and (4) the content of holy Scripture. Of the last he writes, “In its best judgment the SLC believes that the Proposed BCP is in conformity with this Scriptural norm – in what it adopts from previous Prayer Books, in what it has devised for the world it confronts and in what it has taken over from earlier liturgical traditions” (p.19). And, we may add, many accepted the Book because of this claim which they took as true. Yet all the evidence points to the fact that the liturgists were much more committed to the “newer is better” program, justified by reference to the practice of the “ancient” Church before the period of the Ecumenical Councils, than they were either to the content of the New Testament or the practice of the Church from A.D. 325 to 787 (from the first to the seventh ecumenical councils)!
Only after the 1979 book was adopted in the U.S.A. and the dust settled (for the scene had been thrown into confusion with the illegal ordination of women in 1976) did a growing number of laity and clergy began to realize that it was a very different book from the previous one, the 1928 BCP. Though it was called “The Book of Common Prayer” it was not by any stretch of the imagination a book of common prayer. The faithful missed familiar phrases (“there is no health in us,” “the precious blood,” “Blessed is the man”), and even when they heard reasonably familiar words, they were put off by new ritual (e.g., the walk-about and embracing called “the Peace”). They began to sense that the new liturgy orientated people more towards “community” than to “Mystery” and more to human need than to the living God. They found that their priest faced them rather than facing the same direction as they did when he or she prayed the Eucharistic Prayer. They were face to face in a community rather than all facing the Lord Jesus Christ in communion with Him.
Of course some people are enthusiastic about the new liturgies, and others have admitted that there are good things about them. Those who think that the Eucharist ought to be the central service each Lord’s Day are pleased, for it is made to be so; those who want to have the Gloria at the beginning of the Eucharist rather than at the end are happy with this change; those who, for their daily Mass, want a comprehensive list of martyrs and saints are delighted to have The Proper for Lesser Feasts; those who want choice of traditional or modern language and their choice of six or more eucharistic rites are content, for they do have such a selection; and those who want to have inclusive language in Canticles and Psalms are very happy, for this they have.
I do not doubt that there are good things in the new liturgies, but overall I believe (as stated above) that within what may be good frameworks or structures and useful additions found in the new books there are traces of teaching which are not faithful to the Holy Scriptures or the classical tradition of the Church, especially that of the early, formative (patristic) centuries, with its ecumenical councils and creeds. In fact I think that, in varying degrees of intensity, the new liturgies suffer from very serious internal faults (or spiritual diseases) – inclusivism, relativism, modalism, Nestorianism, and Pelagianism, to name some of the major ones (which we shall look at more closely in later chapters). Thus I cannot see that in the long term the new liturgies can truly and fully serve any Church which wishes to be faithful to her Lord and to engage wholeheartedly in His mission in the world. They cause the Church to stand upon sand, whereas before she stood on rock – rock which has effectively been blown up in the new liturgies. Finally, I cannot avoid the conclusion that there was within the Standing Liturgical Commission a general agreement or reluctance not to tell the General Convention or the faithful in the pews the extent of the doctrinal innovations.
The whole job has to be done again! The way forward is to return to the Common Prayer Tradition and start from there and stay within that Tradition, with its faithfulness to Scripture, classical orthodoxy, and dynamic Christ-centered faith and faithfulness. Not until we make this our goal shall we see the wonderful possibilities in this route of genuine liturgical reform and renewal. The modern route has been shown to be a dead end which gradually leads us away from the living God towards pantheism and secularism. The way forward is catholic reform according to the Scriptures, Creeds, and the Ecumenical Councils, guided by ancient liturgies and the few remaining holy centers of common prayer left in North America.
Some of my evangelical and charismatic friends who share my commitment to the authority of Scripture will be surprised that I say that the modern liturgy is a dead end for them. They are happy to use it because it seems to them to be open, flexible, relevant, and modern. Thus they think that it is more easily adapted to evangelism of modern people within the American cultural scene. My word to them is that within what they see as relevance and flexibility is the weakening or the denial of basic biblical insights and doctrines (as I shall show in later chapters). Further, the Common Prayer Tradition can be put into modern English and it can be used minimally at first (maybe combined with ex tempore services) until people learn to enjoy its depth and riches. So it can become a fine tool for evangelism and nurturing young Christians if we learn to value it and use it aright. And, importantly, Christians raised on it will have a much richer understanding and appreciation of the Christian Faith than those raised on the new liturgies.
To make most sense of what I present, may I suggest that my reader will find that it is useful to have by his side a copy of either the BCP (U.S.A., 1928) or the BCP (Canada, 1962) along with the 1979 BCP and, if possible, the 1985 BAS. Certainly the American 1979 BCP will be referred to often.
Since I have said little up to this point about the Canadian BAS I perhaps need to explain that it is similar to the American 1979 book but different in various ways. The story of revising the liturgy in Canada from 1971 to 1985 is told in its Introduction. In fact what distinguishes the BAS from other modern Prayer Books is its need for self-justification and explanation. Not only is there an Introduction to the whole but there are short prefatory essays before most of the services. Regrettably, the standard of some of these – and I hate to say this – is that of a seminarian writing a term paper! Further, apart from being pseudo-intellectual, the essays have a tendency to misrepresent the Common Prayer Tradition in order to justify the innovations and doctrinal changes of the new rites. Then there are specific differences within the services which we shall note as we go along. It seems that this book will be used in Canada for a few more years before it is brought back for final revision. By then there will a generation of Canadians who have never known worship according to the traditional BCP – even though the Canadian BCP was revised for use in the second half of the twentieth century as late as 1959–1962!
It is my conviction that the Anglican Way in North America ought to commit itself once more to the Common Prayer Tradition and to do such refitting and restyling and make such additions as are necessary for the worship of the Father through the Son and by the Holy Spirit in the twenty-first century.
2 DESIGN AND STRUCTURE
My voyage as a Christian is from the harbor of sin to the harbor of righteousness. As I walk on the one and only fine deck of the good ship Common Prayer, where all passengers go first-class, and where there are excellent state-rooms open to all passengers to use and to enjoy, I look across the billowing waves towards the horizon. There I see two modern ships, one, the 1979 BCP (USA), the other, the 1985 BAS (Canada). I am told that for each of them it is claimed that “newer is better.” With my binoculars I shall take a closer look at each of them in order to survey their general design and structure.
1979 BCP (USA)
First of all, I see a ship flying the American flag and painted in the colors of that flag – red, white and blue. It seems to be named “Common Prayer,” but that must be a mistake for I am already on Common Prayer! The ship is rather bulky because it has no fewer than three tiers, each with several decks, and each deck with a stateroom called “The Holy Eucharist.”
Here is my description of them:
1. The tier named “Rite One.” This is a double deck with two staterooms, for it has the longer “Eucharistic Prayer 1" and the shorter “Eucharistic Prayer 2.” It also has rooms named “Morning Prayer I” and “Evening Prayer I,” as well as “Burial of the Dead I.” In certain ways the design of this deck is based on that of the good ship Common Prayer, last refitted in 1928, but it is not identical. The designers have changed it to make it look like the other tiers and decks on 1979 BCP, but it has far fewer rooms and attractions to offer the passengers than the much larger second tier. Further, there are signs near this tier telling people that there is much more room in the tier called “Rite Two,” and this appears to cause people not to enter “Rite One” but to move straight to “Rite Two.”
2. The tier named “Rite Two” has no fewer than four decks (A, B, C, D), all of which are different from the two on Tier One and also slightly different from each other. They appear to be furnished in a rather cheap way with inferior materials which soon crack, rust or look worn. Of special interest is the fourth deck, D deck, which is in a modernized Greek style having been inspired by the design of St Basil: however, as I examine it carefully, it appears to lack genuine authenticity. Then there are rooms with such names as “Morning Prayer II,” “Evening Prayer II,” “Compline,” “Holy Baptism,” “Confirmation,” “Ordination of a Deacon, a Priest, and a Bishop,” and “An Outline of the Faith,” all of which are found in this tier. Because it has so much more to offer, this tier is apparently the most popular one on board.
3. The tier named “An Order for Celebrating the Holy Eucharist.” This appears to be a large space containing building materials for people to make their own temporary quarters as they sail on this ship. There is a notice which states, “This rite requires careful preparation by the priest and other participants.” (see 1979 BCP, pp. 400ff.) Only a few appear to be trying to make their own facilities, and wherever they are, they seem to be imitating the design of “Rite Two.”
As I consider this ship, I remember that a smaller and modernized version of it has been put to sea for trials. It has been named Prayer Book Studies 30, and a few of the more bold and adventurous passengers who want to cross the ocean are traveling on it. The captain hid the skull and crossbones until the passengers had already boarded. Even then, they thought he was just being modern! In fact its captain and crew belong to the new type of sailors who want to experiment not only with new design, structure and provisions, but also with modern methods of navigation. As far as I recall, PBS. 30, which has already been refitted several times, is innovative primarily in terms of the provision of new forms and content in the rooms entitled “The Holy Eucharist.” I suspect that this experimental ship is the type which will soon replace the 1979 book – which is modern without being truly modern.
1985 BAS (Canada)
In the second place, training my binoculars in a different direction, I see a similar ship that was launched in Toronto in 1985 and that has the red maple leaf painted on its bow. Again it looks top-heavy, possessing two tiers, one very large and one much smaller. It does not appear to ride the heavy waves very well.
1. The smallest tier, which follows the general design of the one deck on Common Prayer (refitted Toronto, 1962), has two decks known as “A” and “B,” but they have only one room each, the Eucharist room. There are no other rooms, and so the provision is less than in the American ship’s “Rite One.” However, as a whole this tier looks like, even though it is not identical with, the first tier on the 1979 ship. (See 1985 BAS, pp. 230ff).
2. The largest tier has no fewer than six decks, each with a central stateroom called “The Holy Eucharist.” Three of these are virtually identical with decks “B, C, D” in the 1979 ship. Of the other three, two are like decks on other modern ships launched recently by Methodists and Roman Catholics, while one seems to be uniquely of Canadian design with piped music (deck 5). Then there are other sets of rooms with names such as “The Divine Office,” “Baptism and Reconciliation,” “Pastoral Offices” and “Episcopal Offices.” I observe that people get tired as they examine these six decks to see on which they want to spend their time on the voyage. I feel especially sorry for the elderly, who appear to get confused with all the choice and the walking.
As I think about this ship, I realize that the Canadians are planning on bringing it into harbor soon to make further adjustments and changes. Passengers and groups of professionals have been asked for their comments, and I hope that the designers of this ship will take this input into account when the ship is in dry dock. I suspect, however, that the designers are more likely to listen to what their fellow designers are saying in other parts of the Anglican Communion, where (as in New Zealand) advanced designs are in place.
Further, as an Englishman, I cannot help but think of the Church of England in which I was ordained in 1973. Its prayer book is the one we call BCP (1662): this is a masterpiece of its kind, rich in biblical and edifying content. As an alternative to it, we have the 1980 ASB, which was authorized on what many now see was a false assumption – i.e., the claim that it is faithful to the teaching of Scripture and to the older formularies of the Church (the Thirty-Nine Articles and the BCP of 1662).
Roger Beckwith has written that “in two respects the ASB manifests an anti-liturgical tendency, that is, a tendency away from worship in a set form.” He goes on to explain that:
One is that it is revolutionary rather than evolutionary in its starting point, not revising the existing liturgy but substituting a selection of ancient sources, which it imitates in a modern idiom of English. The other is that, while introducing greater variety and flexibility, suitable to an age of universal literacy like the present, it carries this to an excess which makes congregational worship difficult. The anti-liturgical tendency has been made more obvious in the Liturgical Commission’s later productions, which have shown as great a readiness to depart from the ASB as the ASB did to depart from the BCP (1662); and their report Patterns for Worship (1989) even invites each congregation to make up its own services for each occasion, which in practice could hardly lead to anything but an abandonment of liturgy altogether. (The Church of England: What it is and What it stand for, [Oxford, 1992], p.12.)
Like Beckwith I believe that these strange policies will lead to a return in England to the Common Prayer Tradition of the 1662 BCP and to a call for genuine and gentle revision of this treasured Book.
I must now stop thinking about the design of ships and turn my attention to the social and cultural context in which liturgy is written and used.
Variety the spice of life
North American life certainly has variety. At the side of the highway there are so many opportunities to buy and eat different types of fast food. Within the supermarkets there is a bewildering variety of brands and types of salad dressing, breakfast cereals, frozen pizzas, and cans/bottles of soda. Much the same may be said of clothing, cars, magazines, and entertainment. Further, the variety is always changing, as manufacturers and retailers seek to produce and make available new types and forms of products.
Some say that what’s good for ordinary life is good for liturgy! Why should modern people living in an advanced country and breathing the air of a sophisticated culture be restricted to one type and form of liturgy? Why should there not be variety offered to suit local and personal taste? As the Canadian BAS explains: “Six eucharistic prayers have been provided. Parishes will naturally wish to choose those which meet the particular needs of their own community” (p. 178). The key words here are “naturally” and “particular needs.” Does the first word point to “natural rights” or to human nature in its raw state before it begins to be sanctified or deified by the Holy Spirit? Does the second phrase imply that there are not sufficient needs in common between congregations in one general culture for all to use one basic form of public prayer?
Much is made today of pluralism and multiculturalism, with the result that many of us think in terms of making provision for each and every different group and type that come to our notice. We do not think out the implications of making such provision; we simply get on with the job of providing it. We are caught up in the winds of change, and we are not sure where they will blow us.
Liturgists are made of flesh and blood like the rest of us, and they too get blown by contemporary winds. One near gale-force wind which they seem to be much moved by is that which blows from individualism into community (for more about this see chapter six below). They are also blown and formed by this wind of variety and pluralism and of relativism and multiculturalism. Therefore, not only do they provide an increasingly confusing variety of forms of worship, but they also engage in one of their favorite activities: digging as if they were archaeologists, in order to justify the variety. That is, they examine the remains of the liturgies from the second, third, and fourth centuries and claim that there was no fixed form; rather, there was interesting variety, with one area differing from another. Thus, since variety is primitive, and since to be primitive is good, we must move away from the uniformity of the Common Prayer Tradition into the variety which the liturgists (out of their expertise) provide for us. So we learn that the next step in liturgical renewal is the provision of loose-leaf books or resource-books (which the BAS already is), so that “according to local needs” congregations can have great variety in their services. The worship committee will meet each week to choose the menu, to cut and paste it, and then to make copies on the photocopying machine. As was indicated above, this is already happening in the conservative Church of England, amongst those who have moved on from the 1980 ASB.
It is not surprising, therefore, that the more traditional elements in the Churches would like to see the disappearance of liturgical commissions – if not permanently, at least for a season! In part, this is because they detect in the movement and instability of modern liturgy a political agenda belonging more to the left than to the right.
Liturgists, and the priests whom they have taught, do not seem any longer to offer parishes the old-fashioned but classic option of “Common Prayer.” In fact, it is often the case that many of them, schooled in the new ways, so despise it (or, more correctly, the distorted picture of it which they have in their minds), that they get uneasy or bitter when it is mentioned in their presence as a viable option. In the U.S.A. the expression “Common Prayer” has lost its original and authentic meaning for thousands because of its use (or misuse!) in the title of what is in reality a book of alternative services – the 1979 Book of Common Prayer.
It would perhaps be useful at this stage in our reflections to recall what is meant by “Common Prayer,” since the word “common” in popular usage is often an unsavory word pointing to that which is found everywhere and is of low quality and so not really worth having or possessing.
As an adjective used in the sixteenth century, “common” pointed to that in which all may share, that which is available to and for all, and that which belongs equally to all. Thus “common land” was a place where anyone could tether his horse or graze his cattle. And “the commonwealth” is the state viewed as a body in which all have an interest and/or voice. In this general sense, “common prayer” is that form of divine service in which all unite and which all use.
“Common Prayer” was used by Archbishop Cranmer in the titles of the official prayer books of 1549 and 1552 to point to the forms of service in which all people attending the cathedrals or parish churches joined, not only on Sundays and Holy Days but also each day. So “Common Prayer” referred primarily to the daily services of Morning and Evening Prayer together with the less frequent Administration of the Lord’s Supper. Cranmer planned these services on the assumption that not only priests but also laity would be present. Thus they represented common prayer, divine worship in which all could equally share, whether they were young or old, rich or poor, male or female. The full title of the 1549 book was, The Book of the Common Prayer and Administration of the Sacraments, and other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church after the use of the Church of England.
These daily services of common prayer contained a definite, fixed structure but within this was provision for different Bible Readings, Psalms and Collects. Likewise the Lord’s Supper had a fixed structure but with changing readings from the Bible. Over the centuries the Common Prayer Tradition has kept to these basic principles even though it has made the structure for the daily offices less fixed than in its first expression in 1549.
In fact (to use the illustration of the ship), visits to dry dock for refitting have carefully followed certain principles. These were set out in the Preface to the 1789 BCP (Philadelphia) in these words:
Her [the Church’s] general aim hath been to do that which, according to her best understanding, might most tend to the preservation of peace and unity in the Church; the procuring of reverence, and the exciting of piety and devotion in the worship of God, and, finally, the cutting off occasion, from them that seek occasion, of cavil or quarrel against her Liturgy.
All these principles are within a greater one – that “there be not anything in it [the Liturgy] contrary to the Word of God or to sound doctrine...”
It was necessary to make changes in America, for example, to recognize the results of the Revolution and freedom from the British Crown; but these were done without changing the essential content or aim of the common prayer as a comparison of the English 1662 BCP and the American 1789 and 1928 BCP prayer books will show.
In contrast, as used in the 1979 BCP of the Episcopal Church, the adjective “common” carries a meaning different from that in the 1789 and 1928 prayer books. It points to choice between alternatives (in my illustration, the different tiers and decks of the new ship). Therefore, while all congregations may be using the same prayer book, they are unlikely to be all praying the same prayers. Some may be in Rite I and others in Rite II and within both Rites some will be using one option and others another. So it is something like all using the same supermarkets but buying differing products or all going to the same restaurants but choosing different types of food. There is an excessive flexibility in choices and options for it to merit being “common prayer.”
The “common” in classic “Common Prayer” also presupposes a common human nature which all of us share despite our differences in height, weight, sex, personality and age. It is a nature which is certainly diseased by sin but which is made by God to find its fulfillment in the worship and love of God both here and in eternity. What we have in common (as sinful but redeemed human beings, made in the image and after the likeness of God) is greater than that which separates us (age, sex, and race). Thus, there are very good reasons for having a common form of prayer in each language which is excellent in its structure and content, faithful to Scripture, and sound in doctrine, which we can all use with profit and to our salvation. Only the best is to be the means of our approach to the Lord our God in worship. We are to offer to Him, on the basis of what He has revealed to us, that worship which is most faithful to His Word and lifts us from where we are in this fallen world into a sense of His transcendent Majesty and His gracious nearness.
There are very few people at the local level who have the necessary biblical, theological, and liturgical understanding to create set forms of worship which are truly worthy of being compared with the Common Prayer Tradition. For those who long for variety there is plenty of scope for local variety in mid-week and after-church meetings for praise and prayer, for Bible study and ex tempore intercessory prayer. The Anglican Way without Common Prayer will quickly cease to be genuinely Anglican but will become merely an association of parishes doing their own thing, visited from time to time by a bishop who will be doing his or her own thing. Laity see this possibility on the horizon now and are beginning to call for a return to the Common Prayer Tradition, based on Holy Scripture and sound doctrine.
Laity and clergy are beginning to feel the effects of what is technically called relativism (knowledge is only of relations between different views). With so much variety offered in forms of services and eucharistic prayers, and with so little authoritative teaching to tell them the difference, they are beginning to wonder – What is the truth of the Faith? Is there any Truth at all? Are all opinions equal? Is Christ no longer the Way, the Truth, and the Life? Is He still the One Mediator between God and mankind?
The Lambeth Quadrilateral
It does not seem to have occurred to many Anglicans in North America that by introducing new prayer books on new principles, the Episcopal Church of the USA and the Anglican Church of Canada have effectively said that they no longer accept the Lambeth Quadrilateral of 1888, whose origins were within the American Episcopal Church. This important statement was agreed upon by the bishops of the Anglican Communion of Churches as “a basis on which approach may be by God’s blessing made towards Home Reunion.” In other words, they stated the minimum basis on which Anglican Churches anywhere in the world could join with or reunite with other Christian bodies. Since then, such reunion has occurred in India and Pakistan to form united Episcopal Churches there.
The four principles, which were first adopted by the American House of Bishops in Chicago in 1886 before being passed at Lambeth, are as follows:
(a) The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as “containing all things necessary to salvation” and as being the rule and ultimate standard of faith.
(b) The Apostles’ Creed, as the Baptismal Symbol, and the Nicene Creed, as the sufficient statement of the Christian faith.
(c) The two Sacraments ordained by Christ Himself – Baptism and the Supper of the Lord – ministered with unfailing use of Christ’s words of Institution, and of the elements ordained by Him.
(d) The Historic Episcopate, locally adapted in the methods of its administration to the varying needs of the nations and peoples called of God into the Unity of His Church.
It is interesting to observe that the Book of Common Prayer is not included in this list. The reason is simple – the Common Prayer Tradition is a distinctive of the Anglican Way and is not what Anglicans look for in other traditions of Christendom.
Let us look at each of these four statements and notice how every one has been effectively set aside within the new liturgy.
In the late nineteenth century the prayer books in use throughout the Anglican Communion printed the Epistle and Gospel for each Sunday and for Holy Days and also had lectionaries which did not omit any Scripture from the public reading of the Bible for ideological reasons. Nearly all Scripture was read at least once every year (and the New Testament was read more often). What was omitted was on grounds that it better applied to personal meditation (e.g., the Song of Songs) or that it was difficult to understand (e.g., parts of the Apocalypse). With the advent of the new lectionaries within the new prayer books parts of Scripture were deleted simply because of what they positively teach. For example, where a section of a book of the Bible seems to uphold the doctrine of patriarchy (see I Cor. 11:3ff.) or teach that the wrath of God is turned towards homosexuality (e.g. Rom.1:17ff.), then that section is removed. A careful study needs to be done of the doctrines contained in the omitted passages of the modern lectionaries. Thus we may say that this excision of what are deemed to be unacceptable parts of Scripture means that the Holy Scripture is not effectively and in reality “the rule and ultimate standard of faith” for churches which use the new books. And this situation is intensified by the use of inclusive language in biblical translation of certain Canticles and the Psalter – as we shall note below.
Let us now turn to the Creeds. We find that while the new books do actually contain the two Creeds, they offer us two translations of them. First of all, there is the translation which millions have memorized over the centuries and which may justly claim to be accurate; secondly, there is a modern translation which I judge to be dishonest. It is dishonest, I believe, in the phrases which are added (e.g., “by the power of” with reference to the conception of Jesus in both Creeds), the words which are omitted (e.g., “Almighty” after “Father” near the end of the Apostles’ Creed), and the words and phrases mistranslated (e.g., “He descended to the dead” instead of “He descended into hell” in the Apostles’ Creed and “seen and unseen” instead of “visible and invisible” in the Nicene Creed). Surely, dishonest translations cannot be for the Church of God “the sufficient statement of the Christian faith.” Further, the presence of two different translations contributes to the relativism referred to above. The general concept seems to be that there is no final truth but only our partial insights into it. Reciting two different translations of the one Creed helps to convey this underlying attitude.
We can take the Sacraments and the Historic Episcopate together. Contrary to the teaching of Scripture and to the tradition of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, the Episcopal Church has consecrated women both as bishops and priests. The 1979 BCP provides in its Ordinal for both female and male candidates to be ordained priest and consecrated bishop. The 1985 BAS certainly provides for women to be ordained priest but does not seem specifically to provide for women to be consecrated bishop (although the Canadian bishops have stated that they see no obstacles to such happening). So at least in the U.S.A., the Historic Episcopate has been set aside and a new form of Episcopate has been created, composed of both women and men. Now since the administration of Holy Communion is to be by those duly consecrated and ordained, the validity and efficacy of the “sacraments” of the novel order of bishops and priests is in question. Are they genuine dominical sacraments? Many doubt that they are either valid or efficacious. Thus it would seem that both the third and fourth principles of the Lambeth Quadrilateral are violated by the new prayer books.
So returning to our ships, it becomes clearer perhaps that the new type of ship, be it launched in New York or Toronto, has serious design and structural faults and weaknesses and is hardly the vessel on which we ought to put to sea, especially when the voyage is one of life or death.
The three-legged Stool
More design faults in the new ships become apparent if we recall the historic claim of the Anglican Way that it is based upon God’s self-revelation written in Holy Scripture and as this Scripture is interpreted with the aid of tradition and reason. This claim was given classic expression by Richard Hooker in the Elizabethan period in his justly famous book, Ecclesiastical Polity. The purpose of “tradition and reason” is not to add two further authorities to that of God’s Word written, the Bible, but to indicate how we are to approach the divine revelation recorded in human literature. We are not to approach Holy Scripture in an individualistic manner as though the Bible existed for me and me only, and that I, in my autonomous individuality, have the key to interpreting its contents. The Bible is the collection of holy books which God has given to the Church to read in order to know who He is and what is His will. From within the one, holy, catholic Church we read Scripture within a tradition of doctrinal understanding into which God in His gracious providence led the early Church.
This understanding is expressed in the doctrinal formulations of the ecumenical councils, from which we obtain such important doctrines as (a) the classic teaching and understanding as to the identity of the LORD (Yahweh) as a Trinity of Persons – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and (b) the classic teaching and understanding of Jesus as the One Person, the Son begotten of the Father before all ages, who took to Himself in the womb of Mary ever-virgin, our complete human nature so that He is truly very God of very God and very man of very man.
The reason or rationality to be used in reading Scripture is, again, not that of the autonomous individual who is doing his own thing. Rather, it is the (being) sanctified reason of those who, in submission to Jesus as their Lord and as members of His Body, aim only to find out what God, the Father, has said to His people and what His will for them is, so that, with the guidance and strength of the Holy Spirit, they may do that will.
From tradition, which we may take as the ongoing result of the Church’s being guided by God in his providence, we receive much more than sound teaching. We could spend time, for example, thinking about (a) the Lord’s Day (Sunday), the first day of the week, the day of Resurrection as the day of Christian worship and fellowship; (b) the centrality of the Holy Eucharist on the Lord’s Day when the Lord’s people gathered to meet their Lord at the Lord’s Table; and (c) the emergence of the Historic Episcopate and the threefold Ministry. However, for our purposes here, I want to emphasize the importance of the emergence of dogma – the careful statement of the central truths of Holy Scripture – as part of holy tradition.
Until the 1960s those who wrote the books of the Common Prayer Tradition and those who helped to revise them (that is to refit them when they were in dry dock) proceeded on the assumption that the Anglican Way (or the design of the good ship Common Prayer) is based on Scripture, tradition and reason. This was the three-legged stool on which they sat to do their design and make their plans.
However, those who designed the two modern ships of 1979 and 1985 and the PBS.30 did not sit on a three-legged stool. They chose to sit either on a four-legged stool or a one-legged stool. The four-legged is “Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience” and the one-legged is “experience” alone. However, “experience” as used here is not the dynamic and true experience of God the Father, through God the Son by God the Holy Spirit in Christian prayer and worship. If it were, I would have no complaint. No, it is experience within and of the modern world with all its scientific and technological achievements and with all its claims to understand the inner and outer life of human beings.
In other words a new, modern source of divine revelation is located within the insights, assumptions and knowledge of modern sociology, psychology, biology, anthropology, and philosophy. And where this modern “revelation” is opposed to the teaching of the Bible and historic Church, then the modern is preferred to the old. In fact, the contents of the Bible and the achievements of the early Church are seen merely as the record of the flawed experiences of people in ancient cultures – flawed because their experience of God was from within patriarchy. Thus, contemporary church scholars assert that the Bible contains the false assumptions of that “evil” ordering of society where women were subjugated to the will of men. Today, free from that supposed evil, modern theologians, it is claimed, are more able to learn from contemporary experience what God is actually saying to them. So they sit on their four-legged or one-legged stools to do their theology and write their liturgies. Further, since this kind of thinking is so widespread in American culture (I mean the emphasis upon Experience), many churchpeople cannot immediately see that it is there, let alone that it represents a major change in direction and design.
For example, it has crept into modern Collects. In the Proper for the Lesser Feasts and Fasts, which accompanies the 1979 book, the Collect for Clement of Rome is:
Almighty God, you chose your servant Clement of Rome to recall the Church in Corinth to obedience and stability: Grant that your Church may be grounded and settled in your truth by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit; reveal to it what is not yet known; fill up what is lacking; confirm what has already been revealed; and keep it blameless in your service...
Here the plain meaning is that there is truth to be revealed now and in the future (which of course is different from the truth already revealed and recorded in sacred Scripture being illumined by the Spirit).
This looking to Experience as necessary for truth in modern liturgy is clearly admitted in the prefaces to the Canadian 1985 BAS and to the American PBS.30 of 1989. First of all, we read in the Canadian preface these words:
Liturgy is not the gospel but it is the principal process by which the Church and the gospel are brought together for the sake of the life of the world. It is consequently vital that its form wear the idiom, the cadence, the world-view, the imagery of the people who are engaged in that process in every generation.
I thought that the world-view of Christians was to be formed by the Gospel of God concerning Jesus Christ, not adopted from dialogue or engagement with the world. In the second place, the American preface claims that the new liturgical texts “engage the Church in the privilege and responsibility which every generation has to search for and speak of the evolving human experience in its relationship to the permanent truths of God.” This certainly points in the direction of Experience as a source of revelation. Finally, the recommendation of PBS 30 to change the inherited and classical ways of addressing God and to use names which resonate with modern experience also clearly reveals this point.
Further evidence from the ECUSA is now available in its new Catechetical Guide, Called to Teach and Learn (1992), from the Education, Evangelism and Ministry Development Unity. Part 1 is Catechetics and based on a modern approach to the Bible as the repository of religious experiences; and, significantly, Part 2 is called Catechesis and contains confirmatory and extending insights [Revelation?] from Psychology, Sociology, Cultural Anthropology, and Pedagogy. Part 3 is on Catechetical Practice.
There is surely no future for the Church looking for succor in this direction. Certainly, to experience the living God and to know the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in vital communion is paramount; but this experiential knowing the LORD cannot be gained by worldly means. Such knowing only comes through the means of grace, from the ministry of the Word and Sacrament, and from fellowship and in prayer, for it is the gift of God, not the achievement of man.
3 AUTHORITY AND ORDER
All can agree that the question of authority is at the center of much of the conflict and tension in the Church today. People ask: “Where is authority to be located?” If the answer is “in God and by His revelation,” then, in these days of pluralism, there is the further question, “Which or what God?” Moreover, in these days of relativism, there is the added question, “Where and how is God’s revelation known or felt?” Our particular concern is to ascertain where authority for Christian faith, morals, and worship is located according to the teaching of the new Prayer Books of the Anglican Way.
In the next chapter we shall seek to answer from the 1979 BCP and 1985 BAS the specific question, “Who is the Lord God?” Here, taking for granted the existence of the living God, we assume the position of worshippers and ask, “Where and what is authority in the Christian religion?” That is, “On what or upon whom does the Christian faith stand or rest?” In terms of our modern ships we ask by what authority they voyage on the oceans of life and who or what gives them their certification to carry passengers. However, in order to set this question in context, we shall need to look first at the old and tested Common Prayer Tradition. But before doing this, we may find it appropriate to consider briefly what is meant by the word “authority.”
Authority is not the same as power, even though an authority will normally have power. Authority points to the right to command or to give or make the ultimate decision. Thus the President of the USA has authority to send the US army into battle, for he is the Commander-in-Chief. He exercises his authority through others who, having received his orders, then command those over whom they have authority.
So in Christianity authority relates to and resides in the One (God) who has the right to command what all people, and specifically believers, are to be and to do. Further, it relates to and resides in the persons and/or means which God uses in the exercise of His unique authority.
At the Beginning
Perhaps we need to begin by looking at the first Books of Common Prayer in England – the editions of 1549, 1552, 1559, and 1662. Alongside the BCP there existed the Ordinal, the Book of Homilies, and the Thirty-Nine Articles. Any question concerning authority has to be settled by an examination of all four.
The most obvious characteristic of traditional Anglican worship is the centrality of Bible reading. In the daily services there are the readings from the Old and New Testaments, both in the morning and in the evening. Further, there is the prayerful recital of the Psalms at each service. In the service of the Holy Communion there is the recital of the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20) and a reading from an Epistle and a Gospel. Readings from Holy Scripture have a primary place in the occasional offices – e.g., Baptism, the Burial of the Dead and Holy Matrimony. Obviously, the Bible is read because it is assumed to be a unique collection of books in which are not only the record of what God has said and done but also words (messages) to worshippers from God Himself for today.
Such an approach is commended and communicated by Collects. For example, Advent 2 for 1662:
Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning, Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them, that by patience, and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
And for St. John the Evangelist’s Day:
Merciful Lord, we beseech thee to cast thy bright beams of light upon thy Church, that it being enlightened by the doctrine of thy blessed Apostle and Evangelist Saint John may so walk in the light of thy truth, that it may at length attain to the light of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The first refers to the whole Bible and the second to the Gospel and Epistles of John. They presume that the Bible is both the written Word of God today and the only place where there is now, today, an authoritative word concerning God’s salvation and the gift of everlasting life.
If we turn to the Ordinal (1662), we find that these questions are asked in the ordering of priests:
Are you persuaded that the holy Scriptures contain sufficiently all Doctrine required of necessity for eternal salvation through faith in Jesus Christ? and are you determined, out of the said Scriptures to instruct the people committed to your charge, and to teach nothing, as required of necessity to eternal salvation, but that which you shall be persuaded may be concluded and proved by the Scripture?
Will you be ready, with all faithful diligence, to banish and drive away all erroneous and strange doctrines contrary to God’s word...?
Will you be diligent in Prayers and in reading of the holy Scriptures...?
Will you be diligent to frame and fashion your own selves, and your families, according to the Doctrine of Christ [found in holy Scripture]...?
Similar questions are also asked in the consecration of bishops.
Article XX makes clear that the Church is only to teach what is found within or is in conformity to the Bible:
The Church hath power to decree Rites [= liturgies] or Ceremonies, and authority in Controversies of Faith: and yet it is not lawful for the Church to ordain any thing that is contrary to God’s Word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture that it be repugnant to another. Wherefore, although the Church be a witness and a keeper of holy Writ, yet, as it ought not to decree any thing against the same, so besides the same ought it not to enforce any thing to be believed for necessity of Salvation.
This message is reinforced, often eloquently, as a sermon such as “A faithful Exhortation to the Reading and Knowledge of Holy Scripture” in the Book of Homilies.
Obviously, the Bible was understood to be authoritative in specific ways (e.g. for declaring what salvation is) for the Church in all places and at all times because God had caused it to be written (via human agents) and because (by the Holy Spirit) He still speaks in and through it. Thus the authority is God Himself – but God in association with, by, and through His written Word. The Word is so important because it was inspired by the Holy Spirit; and the same Holy Spirit is present to make it again His Word, even the Word which points to the living Word of God (John 1), who is the only begotten Son of the Father. Therefore, we may say that the Father speaks concerning His Son (the Word) by His Holy Spirit through the content of sacred Scripture to the Church.
Alongside the authority of Scripture for faith and morals is the related yet subservient authority of bishops as chief pastors of the flock. The bishops represent personally and directly the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ in His Church even as the apostles did in the early Church. However, they are to be conformed and faithful to the teaching of Scripture (i.e., God’s authority mediated via Scripture = the apostolic faith) in their ministries of diligently preaching the Word of God and duly administering the godly discipline thereof. In turn, bishops, acting on behalf of the Lord Jesus, personally give authority at ordination to priests to preach and teach God’s Word and to administer the holy sacraments.
Perhaps the mind of the English reformers concerning bishops is best captured in Canon 10 of the Reformatio Legum Ecciesiasticarum of 1553 concerning the position and dignity of bishops in the Church.
Bishops, because they hold the principal place.. . shall govern and have pastoral care for the lower orders of clergy and all God’s people, with sound doctrine, weight of authority, and especially prudent counsel. They shall not, indeed, play the master over them, but show themselves to be truly the servants, of the servants, of God. Let them be aware that their ecclesiastical authority. . . is entrusted to them for no other reason than that by their ministry and diligence very many men may be united to Christ. Likewise those who are already Christ’s may thus thrive and come to maturity in the Faith.
This is Cranmer and his friends at their best, showing pastoral concern with doctrinal clarity.
According to the Articles, councils of bishops also have authority to declare the Faith (in Creeds), to make liturgies, to fix and administer discipline (canons), and to decree ceremonies for worship. However, such councils “may err and sometimes have erred.” What they ordain as necessary to salvation must be taken out of holy Scripture (Article XXI). This latter point is made explicit by the commentary of the Reformatio Legum Ecclesiasticarum on Article XXI:
Though we gladly give great honor to the Councils, especially those that are General, we judge that they ought to be placed far below the dignity of the canonical Scriptures: and we make a great distinction between the Councils themselves. For some of them, especially those four, the Council of Nicea, the first Council of Constantinople, and the Councils of Ephesus and Chalcedon, we embrace and receive with great reverence. And we bear the same judgment about many others held afterwards, in which we see and confess that the most holy Fathers gave many weighty and holy decisions, according to the Divine Scriptures, about the blessed and supreme Trinity, about Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior, and the redemption of man obtained through Him. But we think that our faith ought not to be bound by them, except so far as they can be confirmed by Holy Scripture. For it is manifest that some Councils have sometimes erred, and defined contrary to one another, partly on actions of law, partly even of faith. (see E.C.S.Gibson, The Thirty-Nine Articles, p.531)
The classical Anglican divines certainly accepted the first four general councils and, since the fifth and the sixth (Constantinople, II and III) may be said to have merely explicated and clarified the doctrine of the third and fourth, they also received these. However, there has been uncertainty in the Anglican Communion over the seventh ecumenical council that was held at Nicea in 787 and concerned with the right use of ikons. [I share the view of C. B. Moss, The Church of England and the Seventh Council, 1957, that, when rightly understood, there is every good reason for the Anglican Communion of Churches to state its acceptance of this Council with its careful distinction between what is to be offered to God as worship [latreia], and the reverence [proskunesis] permitted to icons of our Lord, His Mother and the angels.]
The Creeds – the Apostles’, the Nicene [and for most parts of the Anglican Communion, the Athanasian] – have always had a special authority for the Anglican Way in that they have been seen as summaries of the essential message of the Scriptures, as that which forms the doctrinal structure of the Christian mind and the means or the lens in and by which the Scripture is to be heard and read. So the Apostles’ Creed is used in Holy Baptism and in the Catechism while the Nicene Creed is used in the Eucharist. The place of the Creed in the Administration of the Lord’s Supper is significant. It is said after the reading of the Gospel and before the preaching of the sermon with the intention that the Scriptures will be received and expounded not according to individual fancy and judgment but with that doctrinal norm and mindset which God in His providence gave to the early Church. This placing of the Creed after the Gospel is to be traced back to Charlemagne and Alcuin and so is a very old tradition in the West.
Therefore, the only final authority in the Church is God Himself, or, more specifically, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, Jesus Christ, who is God incarnate. As the resurrected Lord Jesus, He said, “All authority/power is given unto me in heaven and on earth” (Matt. 28:19), for He is the Lord of lords and the King of kings and the Head of the Church. His divine authority is exercised in and via the Scriptures, through the Creeds and in and through the bishops of the Church. Therefore, there is a delegated authority given to priests ordained by bishops (and thus ordained by Christ through his servants) as well as in Creeds promulgated by bishops (accepting the authority of Scripture).
Since Christianity declares that believers are called into a right relationship with the Father in the Son and by the Holy Spirit, the authority of God is always personal, even when it is exercised through the written Word. It is God who speaks via the text of Scripture whether it be directly through the Holy Spirit to the human spirit in personal Bible reading or in the personal words of the preacher as God’s ambassador addressing people with the Word of God in the sermon within divine worship.
Although classical Anglicanism has been hesitant to use such terms as “infallibility” and “inerrancy” of the Holy Scriptures (because of fear of being associated with “extreme” Protestantism!), it seems to me that these words do capture what is believed concerning the Bible. What these terms convey is that the teaching and affirmations of the sacred text concerning God and His relation to His world are wholly true and wholly trustworthy. So when the text is being interpreted, no part of it may be disregarded or struck out, and no part of it may be relativized by claiming that it is merely the human opinion of the writer.
In fact, these terms point to what we may call the divine character of Holy Scripture. They do not deny what may be called the human character, for Christians have traditionally held to dual authorship. Certainly, the Bible is the work of the men who wrote it, but at the same time by the invisible superintendence of the Holy Spirit it is also the work of God. This is surely what is conveyed by the statement of Paul, “All Scripture is inspired by God [= God-breathed]” (2 Tim 3:16). As men wrote their words, the Holy Spirit (who is the Breath of God) breathed the Word (the Logos of John 1:1–18) into the text so that the result is God’s Word written. So it is that the Church has historically taken all Scripture seriously as both coming from God and of being nothing less than divine instruction to the Church and to the world. Further, it may be said that the Church has always had a dual role of being at one and the same time under the authority of the Holy Scriptures and of being “a witness and a keeper of Holy Writ” (Article xx).
Further, in recognizing the dual character of the Scriptures as being both human and divine, the Church has encouraged both serious biblical scholarship working with the original languages, and prayerful meditation upon the text by the faithful as well as prayerful preaching from the text by the clergy, using the best modern translations. Scholarship, recognizing both the human and divine character of the Bible, ought to go hand in hand with the doctrinal and practical use of the same Bible by the Church as the Word of God written. For, where scholarship, seeing only the humanity of the text, goes in one direction and the pious faithful, seeing primarily the divinity of the text, go in another, then the Church has problems!
The Lambeth Conference of 1948
The impact of modern “scientific” study of the Bible within universities and then in Christian seminaries and colleges has been deeply felt within the Anglican Communion of Churches. Many questions have been raised concerning the authority of Scripture within the Church. For example, how can the Bible be seen as authoritative for the faith of modern people when it was written within the Church and reflects ancient societies which were patriarchal and pre-scientific in structure? Similar questions have been asked about the authority of the Creeds, for they too may be said to reflect the intellectual and cultural context in which they were written. And the pressure to include within Christian thinking insights gained from modern empirical study has been growing since the early nineteenth century.
Meeting in London in 1948 just after World War II, the bishops of the Anglican Communion faced the question of the meaning and unity of the Anglican Communion of Churches. In particular, they asked: “Is Anglicanism based on a sufficiently coherent form of authority to form the nucleus of a world-wide fellowship of Churches, or does its comprehensiveness conceal internal divisions which may cause its disruption?” To answer, they chose to take into account recent theological and historical study (for many bishops came out of academia) and apply it to the unique reality of an international union of independent Churches, all of whom trace their origins to the Church of England.
They claimed that authority is dispersed rather than centralized, and they stated:
Authority, as inherited by the Anglican Communion from the undivided Church of the early centuries of the Christian era, is single in that it is derived from a single Divine source and reflects within itself the richness and historicity of the divine Revelation, the authority of the eternal Father, the incarnate Son, and the life-giving Spirit. It is distributed among Scripture, Tradition, Creeds, the Ministry of the Word and Sacraments, the witness of saints and the consensus fidelium, which is the continuing experience of the Holy Spirit through His faithful people in the Church. It is thus a dispersed rather than a centralized authority having many elements which combine, interact with, and check each other; these elements together contributing by a process of mutual support, mutual checking, and redressing of errors or exaggerations to the many-sided fullness of the authority which Christ has committed to His Church. Where this authority of Christ is to be found mediated not in one mode but in several, we recognize in this multiplicity God’s loving provision against the temptations to tyranny and the dangers of unchecked power.
This represents not so much a rejection of the way authority was understood in the sixteenth century but a novel interpretation of that authority. As they said:
This authority possesses a suppleness and elasticity in that the emphasis of one element over the others may and does change with the changing conditions of the Church. The variety of the contributing factors gives to it a quality of richness which encourages and releases initiative, trains in fellowship, and evokes a free and willing obedience.
Gone is the hierarchical order (God to Scripture and bishops; Scripture to Creeds, and Scripture to the preaching of the Word and administration of the Sacraments), and in its place is a flexible relationship of the elements in and through which the authority of God is experienced. Thus it is not surprising that we are told, “authority of this kind is much harder to understand and obey than authority of a more imperious character. This is true, and we glory in the appeal which it makes to faith.”
Then the bishops addressed their own authority in terms of being fathers in God’s family:
God who is our ultimate personal authority demands of all His creatures entire and unconditional obedience. As in human families the father is the mediator of this divine authority, so in the family of the Church is the bishop, the Father-in-God, wielding his authority by virtue of his divine commission and in synodical association with his clergy and laity, and exercising it in humble submission, as himself under authority.
What is new here is the “in synodical association with his clergy and laity” which reflects the growth of synodical government within the Anglican Communion.
Having spoken of two sides of the one coin of authority (the written and the personal) but without as yet saying how these two sides interacted, they returned to the first side. And likening the elements in authority to the aspects of the discipline of the inductive, empirical, scientific method, they claimed that “Catholic Christianity presents us with an organic process of life and thought in which religious experience has been, and is, described, intellectually ordered, mediated, and verified.” (We may note that this reduction of the elements in authority to experience is most interesting and surely reflects not only the influence of the Enlightenment but also of Romanticism as well.)
So this religious experience is “described in Scripture, which is authoritative because it is the unique and classical record of the revelation of God in His relation to and dealings with man.” Further, it is “defined in Creeds and in continuous theological study.” Then it is “mediated in the Ministry of the Word and Sacraments by persons who are called and commissioned by God through the Church to represent both the transcendent and immanent elements in Christ’s authority.” Finally, it is “verified in the witness of saints and in the consensus fidelium.”
How do the two sides of the coin fit together? We learn that:
This essentially Anglican authority is reflected in our adherence to episcopacy as the source and center of our order, and the Book of Common Prayer as the standard of our worship. Liturgy, in the sense of the offering and ordering of the public worship of God, is the crucible in which these elements of authority are fused and unified in the fellowship and power of the Holy Spirit. It is the Living and Ascended Christ present in the worshipping congregation who is the meaning and unity of the whole Church. He presents it to the Father and sends it out on its mission.
I am not wholly sure what this means. However, the basic stability of the Common Prayer Tradition is assumed, since the call for “liturgical reform” had not been made and the production of Books of Alternative Services had not begun. So on the basis of the classical BCP the interaction of the various structuring elements of authority could be claimed with some expectation of clarity and harmony. However, as we shall see, in the instability of the new generation of prayer books the location of authority in the Holy Trinity and via these elements is not obvious and straightforward.
Communion or Autonomy
Before we turn to examine the teaching on authority in the new Prayer Books, it is perhaps necessary to comment on the exercise of authority in the last decade within the Anglican Communion of Churches. This Communion is made up of twenty-three Provinces over which (contrary to popular opinion) the Archbishop of Canterbury has no authority whatsoever. Each is autonomous and can vote to go its own way and none of the other provinces has any legal right to interfere. Thus the brief of the recent Eames Commission, set up after the Lambeth Conference of Bishops in 1988, was principally to find a way of co-existence between provinces that do or do not ordain women as priests and bishops. “Impaired communion” is the expression that is now used of that “co-existence,” while “dispersed authority” points to the fact that there is no central governing body (for the Lambeth Conference held every ten years is only advisory) for worldwide Anglicanism.
Perhaps, however, the key expression since 1988 is “provincial autonomy,” which points to the fact that each province (which often means a local, national Anglican Church) has exercised authority to have its own liturgy and canon law and to implement the mission of the universal Church according to local culture and circumstances. So far, so good! What has changed in the last decade is that provincial autonomy has been extended to include matters of doctrine and church order. Up to recent times the very expression, “Anglican Communion”, implied not only a common faith and order (as the Lambeth Quadrilateral indicates) but a commitment to consult when there were doctrinal differences and only to take major action when there was a common mind. Yet recently there has been the confusion of a legal autonomy (which is certainly the case) with an autonomy in received doctrine and order (which is a new development). So provinces have gone ahead with major changes in the doctrine and practice of the ordained ministry contrary to the teaching of the Lambeth Quadrilateral (as I indicated in chapter two). Further, as we shall see, provinces have seen fit within their new Prayer Books to change or modify classical orthodoxy.
Sympathetic critics of Anglicanism charge that orthodoxy is most at risk at the level of ecclesiology. This vulnerability was made obvious at the Lambeth Conference of 1988 where the Archbishop of Canterbury championed the theme of “provincial interdependence” and the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church of the United States insisted on “provincial independence” in order to justify departures from catholic faith and order in the ECUSA. “Provincialism” is now used to indicate the pendulum swing within Anglicanism towards the celebration of autonomy. In contrast, the Lambeth Conference in 1920 stated in Resolution IX that “the spiritual leadership of the Catholic Church in days to come, for which the world is manifestly waiting, depends upon the readiness with which each group is prepared to make sacrifices for the sake of a common fellowship, a common ministry, and a common service to the world.”
The Canadian Roman Catholic theologian, Jean Pillard, commenting on the Lambeth Conference of 1988, wrote:
One of the problems underlying the whole Conference was that ... of the tension between the price to pay for unity on the one hand, and on the other, the ardent attachment to provincial [national] independence. On this question the Anglican Communion is living through one of the deepest crises in its history. In the past it had at least three cements, all considered essential. These cements had preserved its cohesion in a way that seemed exemplary. They were, in order of importance, the Book of Common Prayer...; the common episcopate ... and the moral authority (in a sort of honorary primacy) of the Archbishop of Canterbury, charged with the task of preserving the other bishops within one communion. But now the unity of the Prayer Book has been broken, sometimes with a crisis deeper than that felt by certain Catholics over the affair of the so-called Missal of Paul VI. Moreover, the unity of the episcopate is now at stake...
Further, since the authority of the Archbishop has been eroded, the cement has cracked! No longer can the bishops of the Communion meet in cor unum et anima una (one heart and mind). (“The ecumenical lesson of Lambeth, 1988" in Irenikon, LXI, 1988, No 4.)
Authority in the modern books
From the impact of the Conference in 1988 we return to that of 1948 and its impact on modern prayer books. It seems to me that underlying the 1979 BCP is a view of authority much like that offered by the bishops in 1948 from Lambeth but possibly with more “suppleness and elasticity.” However, in America much greater emphasis is given to a secular understanding of the consensus fidelium. That is, the secular doctrine of equality is adopted, and with it the principle of inclusive language within parts of the book is utilized. This general “elasticity” and relativism will be seen as we proceed.
First of all, there is an acceptance of the authority of Scripture, most obviously in the ordination oath: “I solemnly declare that I do believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God and to contain all things necessary to salvation” (pp. 513, 526 & 538). However, in the Catechism (p. 853), where one would expect the authority of Scripture to be taught, it is not. In answer to the question, “Why do we call the Holy Scriptures the Word of God?” the answer is given, “because God inspired their human authors and because God still speaks to us through the Bible.” We all know that inspiration is an imprecise word and that, standing alone, really tells us nothing very clear about whether or not the Bible is authoritative for faith and morals.
Further, the authority of Scripture as the Word of God is limited in two more ways. Because of the selective Lectionary provided at the back of the book (pp. 888ff.), the people are not allowed to hear those parts of the Bible which the experts deem to be out of date or inappropriate or wrong. Thus the Word of God is edited rather than being free. And, by the use of inclusive language in the Psalter (pp. 584ff.) and in the Canticles (pp. 82ff.), the revisers force the modern ideology of anti-sexism and inclusivism into the translation, making them at best only paraphrases of the original. Thus the Word of God is partially hidden behind an ideology. (I realize that there was a certain muffling of the Scriptures in the 1928 and 1962 BCPs, and this I cannot defend.)
When we turn to the Creeds, we find that their traditional authority as summaries of the doctrinal content of Scripture is also restricted. I say this because we are given two different translations of both the Apostles’ and the Nicene Creeds in Rite I and Rite II (pp. 53, 66, 96, 120, 326–7, & 358). Now, if we have two texts whose obvious differences cannot merely be explained in terms of old and modern English renderings, but must also be accounted for in terms of different concepts, then we are into relativism. Thereby, any inherent authority which the original Creed has is (to say the least) eroded, for people ask, “Which is the correct translation?” or more poignantly, “Which one is the Creed?”
Further the place of the Creed in the Eucharist is changed. It is placed after the sermon, not between the reading of the Gospel and the preaching of the sermon as in the Common Prayer Tradition. It loses thereby its pivotal position as providing the doctrinal and ecclesial context in which the Gospel is read and preached. This may seem a little matter, but it reflects a general move to find the lex credendi in the lex orandi of the Eucharistic Prayer rather than in the received Creed. In traditional terms the Creed is intended to proclaim the Faith which we participate in sacramentally through the Eucharist.
Let us move on to the theme of the Ministry of the Word and Sacraments and to the ordination of a priest (p. 531). We find that in the bishop’s address in the new ordination services little emphasis is placed upon the relation of the priest to the sacred Scriptures. Further, the vocation is presented in primarily functional terms. In contrast, in the traditional Ordinal the charge is saturated with biblical images, concepts, and duties, and priests in their vocation are set in a definite relationship with the Lord as his “messengers, watchmen and stewards.” The priest is to consider “how studious you ought to be in reading and learning the Scriptures.” The contrast in the use of Scripture in the two Ordinals is very clear.
On the surface (as J. Robert Wright has claimed in “The Official Position of the Episcopal Church on the Authority of Scripture” in the Anglican Theological Review, Vol. LXXIV, No.3., pp. 348ff) it would appear that the view of authority in the 1979 BCP is not essentially different from that of the 1928 BCP. Yet, if we take seriously what the adoption of inclusive language in the Psalter and Canticles of Rite 2 means, then we see that modern experience has been given priority over honest translation. The adoption of inclusive language was in effect saying, “The authority of modernity is to be preferred to the authority of the actual historical and plain meaning of the text of holy Scripture.”
When we turn to the Canadian BAS we also meet a diminished or changed doctrine of Scripture. Its preface tells us that modern biblical criticism “has fostered a rich, subtle, and theological understanding of the holy scriptures [notice the lack of capital letters] as the repository of the Church’s symbols of life and faith.” What is surely meant is one type of biblical criticism, since there remain many biblical scholars who believe that in Scripture there is what may be called propositional truth – true and accurate statements about God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and so on.
The view of Scripture as containing symbols of life and faith, the trend towards inclusive language, and the authority of modern, secular experience are clearly seen in the claims made within the prefaces, introductions, and contents of both PBS 30 in the ECUSA and in the 1985 BAS in the Anglican Church of Canada. Further, we need to remember that such theological moves are in line with what is happening in the study of theology within the universities and seminaries. There, as we have already noted in chapter two, theology is often just empirical theology or merely begins from claimed human experience of God in the modern world. We would have to go out of our way to search for and list official pronouncements (from synods, conventions, bishops and presiding bishops) of both the Episcopal Church and Canadian Anglican Church which utilize the authority of modern experience over and above the authority of Scripture, Creeds, and traditional Christian morality (e.g., sexual morality); but, such certainly exist.
Like the American Book, the BAS places the Creed after the sermon in the Eucharist, but unlike the American Book it also provides both a version of the Nicene Creed without the filioque (in the modern Rites) and a version with it (in the traditional Rite). If anything declares that doctrine does not really matter, it is surely this. There is here a major question of truth – does the Anglican Church in Canada accept the western version of the Creed or does it accept the version used in the Orthodox Churches? Over this issue Christendom divided in the Middle Ages. The Church in Canada ought to decide to which doctrine it adheres!
Further, the BAS leaves out completely the Athanasian Creed (which is part of the Canadian credal tradition and is in the BCP of 1962), and also, as we have noted elsewhere, it includes, amazingly, as an alternative to the Apostles Creed the Jewish Shema (Deut.6:4–5). How can an Old Testament statement, marvelous as it is, be a Christian Confession of Faith if it stands alone?
The Lectionary of the BAS is not identical with that of the 1979 Book but is based on similar foundations. It is related to the Roman Catholic Ordo Lectionum Missae of 1969. From the Daily Office lectionary the following passages are omitted from the New Testament: Mark 11:26; Romans 1:26–27; 1 Corinthians 6:9–11; 11:3–16; 14:33–36; Philippians 4:21–23; Colossians 4:7–18; 1 Timothy 2:9–15; 5:1–16; 1 Peter 3:1–12. A brief perusal of them will tell the reader very quickly why they are omitted!
Further, the dominance of modern biblical criticism appears most clearly and most questionably in the acceptance of the existence of “Q” (Quelle) – a pre-Gospel narrative source which predates and is used in the three “Synoptic” Gospels. This hypothesis is by no means universally held by modern scholars. However it affects the way that the Gospels are used in the eucharistic lectionary (e.g. Year A, Matthew; Year B, Mark; and Year C, Luke) and particularly how the reading of Mark is interrupted with insertions from the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel from the seventeenth to the twenty-second Sundays in “Ordinary Time.” In contrast, the BCP use of the Gospels may be put very simply – the first half of the year from Advent to Whitsunday follows the substantial or doctrinal moments of Christ’s life and mission and we learn what He has done for us; the second half from Trinity to Advent applies Christ’s saving work to us. In the one we travel through a greater part of the Creed, and in the other the Creed passes into and through us so that doctrine and holiness travel together.
Newer is better
There is one further and important point that I need to make about both the American and Canadian books. They appear to share in the assumption and ethos of modernity that newer is better. Thus the new has greater authority than the old! We are all familiar with the theme found in virtually all popular (and much serious) writing, conversation, and media presentations that new = good and that change = improvement. For example, those of us who work in education are aware that it is generally accepted that the more recent ways of knowing the truth are self-evidently superior to all alternatives. Yet to state that the liturgists who claim to be recovering authentic Christian rites share the philosophy that newer is better might appear to my reader to be an odd or false assertion. I understand and appreciate such a reaction. Let me say in response that my argument is that their aim was to introduce new rites containing new theology – and this is what they did. However, and this is important, to justify this project they had to appeal to something in the past, simply because Christianity is a historical religion and the Church has continuity through space and time.
So to what period could they appeal? Influenced by Gregory Dix, they made it very clear that they rejected the central liturgical insights and contribution of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, for they assumed that he was too pre-occupied with sin and penitence (themes which do not fit into, and are not acceptably within, modernity!). Thus they had to be committed to some other model for liturgy than that contained in the Common Prayer Tradition. What about the later and developed patristic liturgies of the East and West of which we have much detail? They could not follow these, in part because they contained the fruit of the development of dogma as set forth in the ecumenical councils, and some liturgists shared the view that the dogma of the councils is the result of the Hellenization of the Christian message and is therefore not original, authentic Christian doctrine. But what about the New Testament? It does not seem to have occurred to them to go back to the record of the original newness of Christianity, Scripture itself, and, working within and from the authority of Scripture, to produce Eucharistic Prayers on the basis of scriptural prayers (e.g., from the Lord’s Prayer).
Thus, led primarily by the liturgists of post-Vatican II Roman Catholicism, they looked to the pre-Nicene period – that is, from the close of the apostolic age to the first ecumenical council, the Council of Nicea (325), which was called by Constantine the Great. Here, by selective looking, they found sufficient information about structures and basic content of liturgy that they were able to take it and fashion it so that, in their hands, it became as new material when they injected into it their modern doctrine. And so they fulfilled the claim of modernity that newer is better and also satisfied the generally felt need among the faithful to have a liturgy with historical roots. The authoritative center of their newer is better “program” is their reconstructed unitary festival of the Pascha, which lasts for fifty days. With this goes their new design of the Eucharist by which all their work was guided, including their reworking of the Eucharist which they took from the Common Prayer Tradition. In fact, the doctrine that newer is better is well illustrated by the way in which they restructured both the American 1928 and the Canadian 1962 rites according to their new design when they placed them in the 1979 and 1985 books. Thousands of the faithful would have been much happier to have seen the Common Prayer Tradition left unmolested in its little corner in the new books!
To adopt this unitary festival as the center requires changes in the church year (e.g. the season of Pentecost replaces the season of Trinity), and at the same time allows for modern doctrines of the identity of Christ to enter in the guise of “the Easter Jesus,” the “Christus Victor,” and the “Jesus of the fifty days” (see further Chapters five and eight). Further, it opens the door to at least three changes in Anglican identity and practice – first, the elimination of the long-standing and valuable Anglican practice of the public confession of sins followed by absolution; secondly, the insistence that to stand for the Eucharist is better than to kneel (see Chapter six and Appendix 2 below for details); and, thirdly, it effectively removes the sacrament of confirmation by insisting that “initiation is complete in baptism” (see Chapter eight below). And, finally, by its general impact, it minimizes the doctrine of grace and removes the influence of the doctrine of justification by faith from the liturgy.
What is implicit in the 1979 book is made very clear in the 1985 book. In the Preface explaining Holy Week, the BAS explains:
In the earliest days of the Church, Easter was the only Christian festival: an annual celebration, in one act, of Christ’s life, death, resurrection, ascension, and His sending of the Holy Spirit. The celebration lasted fifty days in one continuous festival of adoration, joy and thanksgiving, ending on the Feast of Pentecost. [However] by the fourth century, the Church was adding to its celebration of Easter a week-long commemoration of the events which preceded our Lord’s resurrection, beginning on Sunday with His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. [On Thursday] Christians would recall the final meal Jesus had with His disciples and His institution of the sacrament of the Eucharist. On Friday they would commemorate Christ’s agony and death of the cross. On Saturday night they would gather for the reading of the Scripture, for prayers, for the baptism of new converts, and then, as the day of the resurrection dawned, for the joyful celebration of Easter.
In this mood, it is not surprising to find that the rite for Easter Eve has no confession of sin and that the full confession of sins is never required in the celebration of the Eucharist in the new rites.
So, in ways which are mostly hidden from the observation of priests and laity, authority is effectively taken away from Scripture and the Councils and placed in this new construct of the unitary festival with its supposed doctrinal and practical corollaries. Thus, while the claim is made that an early church program is being revived, the truth of the matter is that historic Christianity is being eroded, for it is a program in which newer is better is being implemented in an indirect way.
I believe that my reader will be able to note that the modified doctrines of God, Christ, Church, man, sin, salvation and sacraments, which we shall study in the next five chapters, could only enter the two Books because already there was a diminished view of the authority of Holy Scripture in the minds of the liturgists who wrote them believing that newer is better. Let us be very clear: the Anglican Way loses its distinctive character if and when it reduces or denies the authority of the whole of Holy Scripture over the total life of the Church, the family, and the individual Christian believer. A newer-is-better program which is designed to reduce that authority for modernity (or post-modernity) will not have the Holy Bible standing in judgment upon it.
4 WHO IS GOD?
For some people the question is not “Who” but “What is God?” Only if God is known or desired as the One who is in personal relations with us do we ask “Who is God?” However, if God is seen as the Creator who like a clockmaker made the universe and then left it totally alone to function according to its own inbuilt laws (i.e., Deism), then “What is this God?” seems a more appropriate question, for we cannot have personal relations with Him or He with us. Further, if God is specifically understood as only the “Mind” or the “Spirit” of the universe (i.e., idealism), then again the identity of such a God is very much a “What” question. Finally, if God’s being is identified with the universe (i.e., pantheism), then we certainly have a “What” question and not a “Who” question to answer.
In the Anglican Church, as in other liberal denominations, there has been a definite move in the last twenty years or so away from the question “Who” to the question “What is God?” This reflects both the changing concept or view of God held by some of those who are in teaching and leadership positions and a general lack of dynamic faith in the Lord Jesus amongst laity. There has been a memory loss of the concept of God as the uncreated, super-essential, transcendent Being who chose to create the world as other than Himself and then, having made it, entered into fellowship with man. Further, there has been a move away from the doctrine, long held within the Church, that God is the end, the telos, of all human aspiration and the goal to which all creation is drawn. That is, He is the author and governor of all things and in relation to man He is sovereign Lord: so the chief end of man is therefore to enjoy and glorify God forever.
In the place of this classical Christian trinitarian theism, concepts of God as a limited God or as transcendent Being (i.e., not a Being or the Being) have been adopted (e.g., through embracing pantheism, panentheism [the world is in God, enclosed in His Being], and process theology [both God and the cosmos are in evolution, becoming what they will be]). In these alternatives “God” is only as eternal as is matter itself. Further, while biblical trinitarian theism tells of the God who is truly personal, these substitute forms of theism cannot focus upon on personal relations between God and His creatures, for the relation which they describe is hardly a genuinely personal one between the deity and human beings. So it is not surprising that, influenced by these doctrines, there is a new emphasis in the new liturgies on the horizontal/immanental and the finding of God within the “community” and its liturgical embrace in “the Peace.” In fact, the constant use of the word liturgy (work of the people) and the sparing use of the word worship also convey the same emphasis upon the primacy of the horizontal/immanent over the vertical/transcendent.
Writing in 1960 before both the liturgical and the feminist movements got into full sway, the wellknown biblical scholar, G. Ernest Wright, spoke of “our modern skepticism and fuzziness about God” and a loss of faith in “the Definite He, the Lord and directing Sovereign of history.” And he continued:
The God of our churches has become more of an inner personal God, working within the inner resources of our souls or spirits. When we say anything about His being, we are inclined to use the categories of breath and wind which can be felt, but have no definite form or substance. God as the Definite Lord is set aside or merged with the Spirit, so that we believe that we have said all that is necessary when we intone, ‘God is a Spirit.’ (The Rule of God, 1960, p. 11.)
Later in the chapter he expressed admiration for the existentialist theology of Paul Tillich, but concluded that it was not the dynamic equivalent of, and thus could not substitute for, the biblical theology of the sovereign Lord God.
The changing question concerning the identity of God also reflects the move towards the use of inclusive language for God. We shall address this modern issue in chapter seven where we shall observe that the refusal to use biblical and traditional images and names for God has the effect of de-personalizing God and making God into the “It” with which we have to deal. (We all understand that we can have a personal relation with a father, with his son, and with a king; but to have a relation with One for which there are only neutral images and names is less easy to conceive!)
A theological Swing
It is clear that the doctrine of God presupposed in the liturgy of Prayer Book Studies 30 (1989) is that of panentheism (the world is in God who/which does not and cannot exist apart from the world, so that the Being of God is inseparable from the being of the cosmos), and it is not an accident that this liturgy represents a definite move towards the adoption of inclusive language for God by the Episcopal Church – a process begun, as we have noted, in the 1979 book. Other liturgies produced within universities, seminaries and dioceses show the same trends. Feminist liturgies in particular appear all to be based on either panentheism or pantheism and to make use of process theology. This move away from trinitarian theism is certainly the direction in which a significant and articulate minority is seeking to take the liberal denominations as we approach the year 2001. The hope seems to be that the next century will witness the Churches freed from ancient views of God as male/masculine, personal, transcendent, and super-essential. My comment is that the Churches will then have ceased to be Christian in any meaningful sense of that word. Certainly they will be religious, but that is not the same thing as to be authentically Christian in faith and practice.
It is also clear that the 1979 and 1985 prayer books exhibit the preliminary stages of the more obvious and daring shift within PBS.30. The way in which they loosen the Church’s commitment to classical trinitarianism is through the use of the principle of relativism. That is, they do not set aside the traditional, received doctrine, but they place alongside it variations which look and sound like it. The intention appears to be that in the constant use of the books the mind is conditioned to assume that there is no fixed dogma of the Holy Trinity and that the Church commends different but related answers to the question, “Who is God?” From here (as the last decade has clearly shown) it is easy to move into the possibility of asking “What is God?” rather than “Who is God?”
Very few churchgoers, and likewise very few clergy, are consciously Trinitarian in their Christian thinking. Thus most churchpeople, when shown various trinitarian formulations, will think it ridiculous – even sophomoric – to make distinctions between apparently similar statements concerning God as Trinity. As a Triunity or Triad, they will say, God is surely a Mystery, and no human words can adequately capture the Mystery – so why not allow a cluster of possible formulations, and why get bothered about differences between them? In reply I would say that because the one God has chosen to reveal both His Unity and Trinity to us, we have an obligation to state what He has revealed in the clearest way available to us. This is what the Church has sought to do in the past in Creeds and Confessions of Faith. Further, the way we think about the world and about human relations ought to be dependent upon how we think of God, our Creator, and the relations of the Three Persons to each other in the One Godhead.
Therefore, it should not surprise us that the use of one word (e.g., “the”) and the relation of specific words to each other in a statement will be the difference between what the Church has taken to be truth and what she has determined to be error. For example, the Church has made it clear that the following statements are wrong:
1. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit: three Gods.
2. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: three names of one God.
They are wrong because God is a Trinity of Persons: thus He is One in Three and Three in One. He really is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; and He really is One God. The three common nouns are names of the three actual Persons of the one Godhead.
Where capitalized and used in ordinary discourse, “God”, meaning the supreme deity, usually stands without the definite article. So we say that God made the world. Here, we follow St. Paul and mean by “God” the Father of the Son. However, when the word “God” is used of the deity of a particular people or religion then we say “the God of the Jews” or “the God of Islam.” When we address God in prayer, using the vocative case, we say “O God...” and do not use the definite article. However, when we speak of the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity, the definite article is normally used with each One in order to denote the unique existence of each Person within the one Godhead. So we do not speak of “Father” as if He were a universal reality, or of “a Father” as if He were one of a kind, but of “the Father,” the specific, unique Father who is the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is supremely “the Father.” Likewise, we do not speak of “Son” or “a Son,” but of “the Son,” for He is the only and unique Son of the Father (begotten of the Father before all ages); and we do not speak of “Holy Spirit” or “a Holy Spirit” but of “the Holy Spirit,” for He is the one and only Spirit of the Father and of the Son (who proceeds from the Father through the Son before all ages).
In the sections to follow I shall begin with the classical formulation of the Trinity. This is based on scriptural testimony and is inherited from the Church of the patristic period, the time of both St. Basil the Great and St. Augustine of Hippo. Secondly, I shall briefly note a modification of it, and finally, in more detail, I shall examine a novel trinitarian statement which I take to be erroneous.
Orthodox Trinitarianism claims to be scriptural in the sense that it is a rational statement of the identity of the God of Israel and the God of Jesus Christ. It is a theological account of that which is assumed and stated concerning the LORD our God in various ways in the New Testament – in particular by Paul, John, and the Letter to the Hebrews. This teaching holds together two confessions as one confession – the consistent Old Testament confession that there is one and one only God, the LORD; and the clear witness of the New Testament that the Father is God, the (His) Son is God, and the (His) Holy Spirit is God. Thus there is Unity in Trinity and Trinity in Unity.
In the New Testament the Holy Trinity is a divine, transcendent communion (or society) of three fully personal and wholly divine entities, whom we are taught to name the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. These THREE are unified in what each wholly possesses – the generic divine essence and the attributes or properties of everlastingness, glory, love, wisdom, and knowledge. Further, the THREE are unified and united in their activity in creation, revelation, redemption and sanctification. Also the THREE have a relation with each other before they have a relation with that which they create; the Father loves the Son in and by the Spirit, and the Son loves the Father in and by the Spirit before and after there is space and time. So, for the New Testament, the Lord God as Trinity is an amazing, super-transcendent society and communion of divine light, love, holiness, righteousness, and mutuality.
Further, while each of the THREE is distinct from the others, at the same time He is not an individual and He is not a separate and independent person. In the divine essence there is no isolation, no insulation, and no secretiveness, for each of the Three is transparent to the others. The THREE are to a superlative degree members one of another. The Son is of the Father and from the Father and is His "only" Son; and the Spirit is the Spirit of the Father and also the Spirit of the Son. Yet God is One, but One in whom is this (beyond our comprehension) Trinity and Triunity.
The clearest statements of orthodoxy are found in the Nicene Creed of A.D. 325 (more precisely the Nicene-Constantinople Creed of A.D. 381) and in the Athanasian Creed (= the Quicunque Vult) from the fifth century. The former is recited in the Service of Holy Communion, and the latter is required by parts of the Common Prayer Tradition (e.g., BCP 1662 & 1962) to be recited on Trinity Sunday and these feasts: Christmas Day, the Epiphany, St. Matthias, Ascension Day, Whitsunday, St. John the Baptist, St. James, St. Bartholomew, St. Matthew, St. Simon and St. Jude, and St. Andrew at Morning Prayer instead of the Apostles’ Creed. The text is printed as an historical document at the back of the 1979 book, but is not found in the 1928 BCP (or, regrettably in earlier American books); further, it is not printed either in the 1985 BAS or the English ASB of 1980.
Let us begin with the Nicene Creed, which was originally composed by the bishops of the early Church to state the orthodox Christian teaching concerning the identity of the Lord Jesus over against the heresy of Arianism. First of all, we may note its threefold arrangement – a paragraph to each of the Three Persons beginning with the Father who is the Almighty God and from whom we are to begin our thinking concerning the Holy Triad. For the uncreated Father begets the Son before all ages, so that the Son is the Son of the Father in the permanency of the one Godhead: further, the same and only Father spirates or breathes forth the Holy Spirit through the Son before all ages so that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Father and of the Son. So there is a hierarchy within God, but it is a hierarchy of order among Persons who are equal. Thus we are to speak of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, for that is the revealed order given unto us by our Lord (who is, of course, the Son incarnate).
So in the Creed we confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is truly the Second Person incarnate who is begotten of the Father before all ages and who shares the very substance, that is, the very Godhead of the Father. We also confess that the Holy Spirit is truly God and that He proceeds from the Father and the Son and is worshipped with the Father and with the Son.
Within the Unity of the Holy Trinity the Three Persons exist in perfect harmony; and therefore while the Father is confessed as the Creator, the Son is confessed as the One “by whom all things were made,” and the Holy Spirit is confessed as “the Giver of life.” Thus the movement of God towards us is that of the Father through the Son and by the Holy Spirit, and our movement to God is in the Spirit and through the Son and to the Father.
In the Athanasian Creed we confess that “the Catholic Faith is this: that we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; neither confounding the Persons nor dividing the Substance.”
That is, the Father is God and the Son is God and the Holy Spirit is God, but there is one Godhead. Each Person is unique and different from the other two Persons, but all Three are co-equal in glory and majesty as God. Thus “the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped.” Each Person is a Subsistent Relation and thus is known in relation to the other Two. So we confess that:
The Father is made of none: neither created nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone: not made, nor created but begotten. The Holy Spirit is of the Father and of the Son: neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.
Further, we state that “in this Trinity none is before or after other: none is greater or less than another; but the whole three Persons are co-eternal together and co-equal.”
One purpose for the writing and use of the Athanasian Creed in the fifth century was to exclude the heresy of Sabellianism or modalism. This is the doctrine which denies the reality and the permanence of the personal distinctions in the Trinity. In other words, for modalism, the “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” are merely three names for the one Godhead in the successive phases of Its self-revelation through the Old into the New Testament. In the Old, God is known as Father; in the time of Jesus, God is known as or through the Son; and after Pentecost God is known as Spirit. Modalism was common in Spain and Gaul in the fifth and sixth centuries, and thus the use of the Athanasian Creed met it head-on with its insistence upon the reality, distinction, and permanence of the Three Persons in the One Godhead.
For most older worshippers the classic doctrine is best known and expressed in the traditional Gloria, which is not printed in the content of services in the 1979 book but is provided in the “Additional Directions” on page 141. It is: “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.” Here we have the clear recognition of each of the Three Persons to whom, as the one Godhead, glory is due before all ages, through all ages, and unto all ages – from everlasting to everlasting. In the Daily Office the Gloria is said several times, both on its own and after Canticles and Psalms. Its presence ensures that worship is truly and really Trinitarian.
Then also the classical doctrine is prayed in the traditional Collects, which often have a trinitarian structure. These often begin by addressing “Almighty God” (the biblical and credal equivalent of “O Almighty Father”), continue by extolling Jesus Christ, and end with “through Him (the Son) who liveth and reigneth with Thee (the Father) and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.” That wonderful prayer we call “The General Thanksgiving,” which is addressed to “Almighty God, Father of all mercies,” ends in this way: “through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee [the Father] and the Holy Spirit, be all honor and glory, world without end.”
Happily, the form of words used in Holy Baptism truly follows the specific words given to us by our Lord in Matthew 28:19. “I baptize you in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” (p.299) Further, the first Eucharistic Prayer in Rite 1 (based on that in BCP ) is also clearly Trinitarian in structure and content. It ends in this way: “By whom, and with whom [Jesus Christ], in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all honor and glory be unto thee, O Father Almighty, world without end.”
Finally, it is good to remember that the Articles of Religion, approved by the General Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church in 1801 (and much the same as the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England and the Anglican Church in Canada), begin with an article “Of Faith in the Holy Trinity,” which reads:
There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body, parts or passions; of infinite power, wisdom and goodness; the Maker, and Preserver of all things both visible and invisible. And in this unity of Godhead there be three Persons, of one substance, power, and eternity; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
This doctrine is then presumed in the second article on the Son of God and in the fifth article on the Holy Spirit.
Perhaps I need to make clear that person is the English translation of the Latin persona and the Greek prosopon and hypostasis meaning “face”, “manifestation,” and, for theological discourse, “subsistence”; in patristic theology person is not, as in modern philosophy, a separate and distinct individual. Therefore, the tri-personality of God is not a numerical or essential trinity of three beings, for that would be tritheism; further, it is not a threefold aspect and mode of manifestation as in the Sabellian and modalist sense; rather, the person is a real, objective and ineffable distinction in the one Godhead, and thus God is a Trinity of Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. So we can speak of the ontological, immanent, and intrinsic Trinity (God as God is in Himself) and the extrinsic and economic Trinity (God as He is towards us in creation, redemption, and sanctification). In contrast, for the modalism of both the patristic and modern periods there is but one and only one divine Person, God, who has three modes of activity and appearance (which modes, to complicate matters, can be called persons!).
(In the BAS classical triitarianism is found, for example, in the traditional Eucharist [pp. 230ff.], and in Collects which are modern English forms of the traditional Collects.)
What I am calling minimal trinitarianism exists alongside what I have called orthodox or classic trinitarianism. Because of this association it is possible to interpret the minimal formulation generously and equate it intentionally with the classic doctrine. In fact, for the untrained eye it is difficult to recognize the difference, unless one is willing to take seriously what was stated above – that in this doctrine every word and phrase counts. Accuracy of statement is not merely desirable but required in order for the liturgy to do justice to God’s gracious self-revelation to us.
Examples of the minimal abound in Rite II but are not absent from Rite I in the 1979 book. In both forms of Morning and Evening Prayer, the Gloria has been reduced to: “Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: as it was in the beginning, is now and will be for ever. Amen.” The final phrase of the traditional form is missing – “world without end” (= “unto the ages of ages”). The purpose of the “unto the ages of ages” is to affirm that the glory of the Triune God is not merely for all eternity (which is created by God and is where the angels are), but is before, above, through, and after eternity. God is the uncreated Being, the Super-Essential Being upon Whom all eternity and all creation are dependent. To leave out the “unto the ages of ages” allows doctrines of God which place God in eternity (only as eternal as is matter) rather than as the Creator of the eternal and the infinite.
The modern translation of the Nicene Creed (p.326) contains these words: “We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father.” (In contrast, the old translation has: “I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of his Father before all worlds.” And a recent translation by Jesuit scholars has: “. .in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten from the Father before all the ages.”) The general force of the words in the 1979 book is to place God within eternity, not before and above eternity. The old English “before all worlds” (= “before all ages”) and the Jesuit “before all the ages” clearly convey the idea that the Holy Trinity is before all eternity, before all ages and before all worlds.
In all the Eucharistic Prayers of Rite II of the 1979 book the reduced trinitarianism is apparent, but truly to see it one has to read the whole set of prayers and compare the way they address God with the way of the Common Prayer Tradition and of Rite I, Prayer I. For example, why does Prayer B (p.368, line 3) not address the First Person of the Holy Trinity as “O gracious/heavenly Father” or some similar address? Prayer C is hardly recognizable as trinitarian at all, and Prayer D, though it is claimed to be based on the early Eucharistic Prayer of St. Basil, has none of the clear and explicit trinitarianism of the great and wonderful text known as the Liturgy of St. Basil. Of course, orthodox minds will read these texts as if they were orthodox, but this mental activity of re-symbolizing ought not to be necessary!
If we turn to the Collects in the official The Proper for the Lesser Feasts (1980), we find that a form of confused trinitarian thinking (related to God = Being) is found in the very Collects which celebrate the great Cappadocian theologians, Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa, and Gregory of Nazianzus, to whom we owe the actual clarification of the doctrine of the Trinity in the East in the late fourth century. In fact, there is one Collect for all three, but the name is changed for each of their days. It begins:
Almighty God, who hast revealed to thy Church thine eternal Being of glorious majesty and perfect love as one God in Trinity of Persons: Give us grace that, like thy bishop...
Amazingly, this Collect actually states the doctrine of the Trinity in a way which the three great theologians would not have accepted! Further, it does not make sense. It addresses “Almighty God” (which normally means “the Father”) and then speaks of the eternal Being of God as threefold. Is the Father three, not one? It seems that the “Almighty God” is here the One Godhead, but in prayer the Church always addressed one of the Persons, normally the Father.
The Cappadocian bishops began their thinking with the Person of the Father (the Monarchy of the Father), and then spoke of the Son as the only begotten Son of the Father, begotten before all ages, and of the Holy Spirit as proceeding from the Father through the Son. The movement of their thought (as that of the New Testament) was from the Father, to the Son, to the Holy Spirit, one God. They did not begin from thought of the Being of the One God and move from there to Three Persons within the one God. Such a way of thinking is western rather than eastern.
One more Collect from the Proper for the Lesser Feasts needs to be quoted. It is that for John Donne (p. 187):
Almighty God, the root and fountain of all being: Open our eyes to see, with thy servant John Donne, that whatsoever hath any being is a mirror in which we may behold thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
The Scriptures tell us that the Father created all beings through the Son and by the Spirit out of nothing. Being or beings did not proceed from Him as if growing from a root or flowing from a mountain. Creation was ex nihilo (out of nothing), not out of the being of God. Again this shows the influence of modern, existential theology (God = Being), which has the effect of changing the received doctrine of the Trinity.
[In the Canadian BAS this minimal trinitarianism is found in and through virtually all that new material, which has been utilized from other sources or composed for this book.]
A novel formulation occurs frequently throughout the 1979 book. It is “God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” People encounter it most often as the first half of an acclamation, “Blessed be God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” found at the beginning of services (of the Holy Eucharist, Baptism, Confirmation, and the Ordinations of Deacons, Priests and Bishops). It entered the experimental liturgies as early as 1967 in the first trial Eucharist as a part of an acclamation and remained there until the end of the process in 1979. Apparently, together with its response from the people (“Blessed be His kingdom, now and for ever”), it is supposed to be an American adaptation of the Blessing which begins the Greek Liturgy of St. Chrysostom: “Blessed be the kingdom of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and always, even unto the ages of ages. Amen.”
From being part of an acclamation the formulation spread (by design or natural expansion) into other parts of the new liturgies and into translations of ancient canticles (e.g., A Song of Creation and A Song of Praise , 1979, p.88) and hymns (e.g. the Phos hilaron in Evening Prayer), and also, significantly, into the new Catechism. I find all the usage disturbing, but especially the fact that it was deliberately used in the Catechism or Outline of the Faith printed in the 1979 book (p. 852). This asks, “What is the Trinity?” and the answer is ,The Trinity is one God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” Recalling the Athanasian Creed or the Baptismal Formula or the Gloria the author(s) could have said: “The Trinity is the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, One God” or “The Trinity is the One God in Three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,” or another form of words which indicated the absolute reality of the Three Persons. But the drafting committee and the Standing Liturgical Commission chose to go with the formulation that someone had created for the trial liturgy of 1967. Further, and I find this extremely worrying, this procedure was done on the basis of lex orandi: lex credendi. Since the formulation already existed in the Acclamation and the [faulty] translation of the Phos hilaron, the revisers decided to follow this rather than look to sound, classical trinitarian formulations in the holy tradition. (See further Appendix 1 on the 1979 Catechism.)
We need to ask what exactly is meant by this form of words, divided by a colon and possessing no definite articles before the three common nouns. Usually what follows the colon stands in apposition to, or explanation of, what is stated before the colon. So on this logic God = Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
A sound rule of interpretation is to interpret one formulation by others within the same document, since presumably they all come from the same hands. So let us note what is said of the “Three Persons” in the Catechism. First, “the Father” is presented (p. 846) in terms of being one God, the creator of heaven and earth and the giver of revelation to Israel. There is nothing about “the Father” being “the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” that is the Father of the Son before there was a universe. “The Son” is presented (p. 849) in terms of “Jesus is the only perfect image of the Father” who shows us the nature of God, which is love. And “the Holy Spirit” is defined as “God at work in the world and in the Church even now.” This could mean (as with the Sabellianism of Gaul and Spain in the fifth and sixth centuries) that God is known by these three names in successive phases of His self-revelation. If there were teaching somewhere in this Catechism to suggest an interpretation other than modalism, then what is said of “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” in this formulation could be read as a minimal trinitariaism expressed rather carelessly. But it is very difficult to find or deduce anything like the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity that tells us about Who God is in Himself in this Catechism.
What we appear to have in the Catechism is teaching about how God is towards us or how God shows Himself to the church and world. That is, there is nothing whatsoever to indicate that the formulation “God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” refers to Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity. Rather it seems to be saying that God is threefold – like a Father; seen in Jesus, His perfect image; and present now as Spirit. Its logic is that to speak of Trinity is to speak of God with Three Names, or God with Three Faces, or God with three modes of operation and activity. There is nothing to indicate that God as the holy God is permanently and mysteriously Three Persons before becoming Creator of the universe and giver of revelation. In a sense it is settling for minimal knowledge of God’s actions and a rejecting of His revelation of Himself in His own uncreated Being. Or, it is a conflating of who God is in Himself with who God is towards the created universe. That is, the “immanent” Trinity and the “economic” Trinity are united.
Further examples are found in the Canticles for Morning Prayer II (numbers 12 and 13). The first, the Benedicite, ends, “Let us glorify the Lord: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”; while the older translation has, “Let us bless the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” The second, the Benedictus es, ends, “Glory to you, Father, Son and Holy Spirit” while the older translation has no equivalent trinitarian ascription (See the 1928 BCP pp. 11–13).
Then in the translation of the ancient Greek hymn, Phos hilaron, used in Evening Prayer, we have the line: “We sing thy [your] praises O God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” (pp.64 & 112 & 118). An honest translation of the Greek (humnoumen Patera, Huion, kai Hagion Pneuma, theon) is “We hymn the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, God.” (The definite articles are omitted in the Greek because the structure is that of address – the addressing of the Three Persons; but there is no need to omit them in English.) The praise is addressed to all Three Persons who are one God. And the word “God” is used, in grammatical terms, in apposition and adjectivally. In contrast, the logic of the 1979 paraphrase is “we praise God who has three names” or “we praise God who reveals himself in three ways” or “we praise God who has three modes of operation” – but this is not what the Greek original says.
The concluding words of both Compline and Daily Devotions for Families (pp. 135 & 140) are: “The almighty and merciful Lord, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit bless us and keep us.” Why was the definite article not put before “Father,” “Son,” and “Holy Spirit” so as to make this clearly the blessing of the Holy Trinity?
One of the collects to conclude the intercessory prayers of the Eucharist begins, “For yours is the majesty, O Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” (p. 391). Why could it not have been, “...O Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit?” Another collect designed for the same purpose begins, “O Lord our God” and then ends, “O lover of souls, and to you we give glory, Father, Son and Holy Spirit” (p. 395). Why could it not have been “and to you we give glory, to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit?”
In the service for the Dedication of a Church (p. 569) the Bishop prays: “Now, O Father, Son, and Holy Spirit sanctify this place.” Why could it not have been, “Now, O God the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit sanctify this place?” On the very same page the Bishop says, “We dedicate this Font in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” Then at the end of the dedication (p. 574) the Bishop says, “Blessed be your Name, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and for endless ages.” Again why could it not have been, “Blessed be the Name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, now and unto the ages of ages,” as the Greek Church with its impeccable trinitarian orthodoxy would do it?
Perhaps what I am trying to say will become clearer if we compare the “traditional” Collect for Trinity Sunday with the optional Collect “Of the Holy Trinity” (pp.176 & 199). The first is an expanded form of the Collect which is in the 1928 BCP. It is as follows:
Almighty and everlasting God, who hast given unto us thy servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of the Divine Majesty to worship the Unity: We beseech thee that thou wouldest keep us steadfast in this faith and worship and bring us at last to see thee in thy one and eternal glory, O Father, who with the Son and the Holy Spirit livest and reignest, one God, for ever and ever [world without end]. Amen.
This is addressed to the Father (who is the almighty and everlasting God), who has by grace caused believers to know of the Holy Trinity and to be united to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
The second, composed by Charles Guilbert, is as follows:
Almighty God, who hast revealed to thy Church thine eternal Being of glorious majesty and perfect love as one God in Trinity of Persons: Give us grace to continue steadfast in the confession of this faith, and constant in our worship of thee, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; who livest and reignest, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
On the logic of normal collects this appears to be addressed to the Father (almighty God). But this is not so, for its inner logic is that of addressing the Godhead. “O Godhead” (= almighty God) is addressed and is then named as “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” This is modalism, not classic trinitarianism. Whereas we have the clear teaching that there is One God, we do not have the further teaching that there are Three Persons who are the One God. The use of the word “Being” suggests that the influence of John MacQuarrie or Karl Rahner, both modalists, or Paul Tillich, for whom the Trinity was only a symbol, underlies this collect.
The fact that there is a constant stream of modalism in the 1979 book should not surprise us. If we take a look at major theologians who wrote on the doctrine of God and whose books were available in the 1960s and 1970s (e.g., Barth, Rahner, and MacQuarrie) we find that most of them were teaching modalism of one kind or another. Further, and I regard this as most significant, the book in the Episcopal Church Teaching Series entitled Understanding the Faith of the Church by Richard Norris (1979) clearly teaches modalism. [For those who wish to study this doctrine of the Holy Trinity in the modern context, I commend The Three-Personed God (1988) by William J Hill, O.P. Further, there are defences of classic trinitarianism in Trinity, Incarnation and Atonement (ed. Ronald J. Feenstra, 1988) by Cornelius Plantinga and David Brown.]
(In the BAS this novel formulation has slipped into the prayers – see for example No 1 [p.62], No 13 [p.82], No.14 [p.83], No 15 [p.84], No 16 [p.85], No 18 [p.88], No 9 [p.99], and No 17 [p.126].)
Perhaps I need to add that what has happened in some modern theological discourse is that there has been a marriage of modalism and panentheism and/or of modalism and process theology. Here the world is conceived as being in God and in a process of evolution with God. Therefore God as God is seen as existing and operating in three modes of existence – as the fatherly or motherly Creator (but not the Creator ex nihilo); as in Jesus, the Revealer of the Divine Nature; and as Spirit, God everywhere. PBS.30 lends itself to this kind of interpretation, and there are hints of this in the 1979 and 1985 books (e.g., Eucharistic Prayer C, 1979 = Eucharistic Prayer 4, 1985).
Having explained the three formulations in the 1979 book, I think it is now perhaps necessary to offer some explanation of the way in which language concerning God as a Triad works. In fact, truly to understand the dogma of the Trinity requires that one understand as a preliminary basic grammar, and especially the function of the definite article and the difference between common and proper nouns.
Already I have pointed out that in English the words “father,” “son,” and “spirit” are common nouns. When used without the definite article, they refer to an indefinite subject of some sort and not to a definite person or thing. An exception to this general rule would be when there is some form of address such as “O father” or “O son” or “O spirit.” Used with the definite article, they refer to a specific father, a specific son, and a specific spirit – this one and not another. When used with such words as “my” or “your” or “his” they also refer to a specific father and son and spirit.
In the Holy Trinity the names of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are common nouns, which have a most specific reference to the Subsistent Relations or Persons in the one Godhead. They are capitalized on the same basis as “the King” and “the President,” are – both out of respect and out of particularity (the President is not just anybody; he is the President of the country). Further, they are used not as proper nouns (i.e., like John, Jack, Joe) but as common nouns. They remain common nouns when the Father declares, “Thou art my Son” at the Baptism, when Jesus Christ prays “O Father” and when Jesus speaks of sending “my Spirit” to the waiting disciples.
Yet the first Two Persons of the Holy Trinity do also have proper names. The proper name of the Father is the tetragrammaton, YHWH (which Jews do not pronounce, see Exod. 3:13ff) and which we render as Yahweh or Jehovah or LORD; that of the Son is Jesus, for Joseph and Mary were instructed to give Him, the incarnate Son, the name of Joshua (= Jesus). Thus in prayer and praise we address the LORD (e.g., “O LORD”), the Father (e.g., “Our Father”), the Son (e.g., “O Lord Jesus Christ”) and (rarely) the Spirit (e.g., “Come, O Holy Spirit”). Normally, Christians pray to the Father through the Son and by the Spirit (as traditional collects well illustrate).
It is important to recognize that in prayer we do not address the divine nature or the Godhead itself, but always we address one or other of the Persons of the Holy Trinity. In the New Testament and within Christian liturgy we find that “God” without any definite article usually stands for “the Father.” We can quickly see this by looking at any of the Letters of St Paul. For example, in the first, the Epistle to the Romans, and in its first verse he writes of the “gospel of God [the Father],” and a few verses later he speaks of “a righteousness from God [the Father].” So when we pray “O God...” we mean “O God the Father...” Most of the collects of the Common Prayer Tradition are addressed to “God” (often as “Almighty God”), and less frequently to the LORD (usually as “O LORD”), and both are names which refer to the Father.
In Greek liturgy the word “God” is also used as an adjective, in apposition to one or another of the Divine Persons. As we saw above, in the praise of the Three Persons in the ancient hymn, the Phos hilaron, each Person is addressed, and then the word theos, God, occurs. Christians are praying to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, who are God and who share the one Godhead. In a correct translation of the Greek evening hymn there are three Persons, and thus three subjects, who are named God, whereas in the misleading translation there is one Person and thus one subject who has three names. One is classical Trinitarianism, and the other is apparently modalism.
In the Latin rite the blessing at the end of the Mass is: “Benedicat vos, omnipotens Deus, Pater, et Filius, et Spiritus Sanctus.” Here Deus or God refers only to the Father as in the New Testament usage. The Blessing has the meaning “Almighty God, the Father, and the Son, [who is also God] and the Holy Spirit [who is also God] bless you.” However, the Blessing from the English liturgy (Roman and Anglican) is often pronounced as if it were the blessing of “God Almighty” ( the Godhead), who has the names of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Perhaps in these days of theological misunderstanding we need to say, “The Blessing of God Almighty, the Father, [and of] the Son [and of] the Holy Spirit be amongst you and remain with you always. Amen.” Of course, how it is said and where the emphasis is placed will count a lot in conveying sound meaning.
It is generally recognized that in the Western Church there has been a constant tendency to think from the Unity of God to the Triuity of God. This is in contrast to the Eastern Church, where the movement is always from the Father to the Son and the Holy Spirit – God. If the danger for the Eastern Orthodox Church is to become tritheist (as in Arianism where there are three deities in a descending and diminishing order), the danger for the Western Catholic Church is to become unitarian and modalist (a common development). If our first thought of God is as the one Godhead, and then from there we consider His Triunity, we have to work hard to accommodate the doctrine of Three Persons. The temptation is always to reduce the Trinity to an economic rather than an ontological Reality. (That is, to think only of God as He is towards us and as we experience Him, rather than of God as He is in Himself as a Trinity.) In contrast, if we begin from the Father who is God and think of the Son as begotten of the Father before all ages (and thus also God) and of the Spirit as proceeding from the Father through the Son (and thus also God), then we preserve the Unity and Trinity and thus the Triunity of God.
It is now time to return to consider the novel formulation, “God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” or “Lord: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” As far as I can see, the only way it can possibly be an orthodox formulation is if “God” and “Lord” here mean neither “the Father” nor “the Godhead or divine essence” but “the Holy Trinity.” Then the formulation is really “Holy Trinity: [the] Father, [the] Son, and [the] Holy Spirit.” However, it is difficult to consider this meaning because of the fact that this particular formulation was produced from the original Greek blessing, which specifically and carefully names each of the Persons with the definite article.
So we are left with three possible meanings and none of the three is classic or orthodox trinitarianism. First, there is one subject, God, who has three proper names (here Father, Son, and Spirit function like Joe, Jack, and James). Secondly, there is one subject, God, who holds three offices or presents Himself in three ways (as fatherly, as in Jesus and as universal Spirit). Thirdly, arising from modern, existentialist theology (e.g., that of John MacQuarrie, Principles of Christian Theology), there is one Deity (Being) who is known as Primordial Being (Father) and Expressive Being (Son) and Unitive Being (Spirit).
Technically speaking, all three explanations are forms of modalism, for they effectively prohibit belief in the reality of the Three Persons and reduce the Three Common Names to ways or means or modes in which the one God is perceived as acting. What I find difficult to understand is that, though this formulation was around from 1967, it seems to have attracted little criticism from both Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals in the ECUSA.
[Since several people have pointed out to me that the 1928 BCP contains two places where the definite articles are omitted from the Names of the Persons of the Trinity, perhaps I need to comment on them. In general I do not want to say that the definite article is always necessary and its absence means heresy. But I do want to say that there is so much carelessness in modern English in the use of the definite article that we need to be extremely careful today in the use of it with respect to the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity.
In the 1928 BCP the optional antiphon provided for Trinity Sunday is “Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, one God; O come let us adore Him” (p. 8). This is probably intended to be in the vocative with the intention “O Father etc.” Even if it is not in the vocative but in the nominative case, it is in accordance with Greek patristic custom of naming each of the Persons in turn and then stating that they are God (see above, as in the Phos hilaron). However, while it is not modalistic, it does represent sloppy English! A better version would be, “The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, God; O come, let us adore Him.”
In the second place, in the hymn Veni, Creator Spiritus, sung at ordinations, there are these lines (p. 556):
Teach us to know the Father, Son,
And thee, of both, to be but One;
That, through the ages all along,
This may be our endless song:
Praise to thy eternal merit,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Obviously, we have here the translation of a Latin hymn into English and so there is need to adjust words to make it rhyme. Even so, it is clear that in this prayer to the Holy Spirit there is an assumption that He is one of the Three distinct Persons of the One Godhead.]
If orthodox Trinitarianism represents the clearest Christian thinking concerning the self-revelation of God with respect to the self-identity of God, then it is surely important. If the early Church went to such pains to produce the dogma of the Holy Trinity and saw alternative formulations as betrayals of the truth of Scripture, then we ought to take the dogma seriously. For centuries the Church has recited the Creed wherein is the dogma, and if words beginning with “I believe” are taken seriously, then the Church has taken the dogma seriously. If God has revealed Himself as a Triad, a Holy Trinity, and a Triunity, then we ought to receive in humility and adoration this self-unveiling by the uncreated, super-essential Being we call the LORD.
From the dogma of the Holy Trinity many primary or basic truths flow. If the LORD is not a Trinity of Persons, then who is Jesus? Is He only a Man whom God adopted or a Man with whom God entered into the closest possible moral union? Only if the Second Person, the only-begotten Son of the Father, took to himself flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary and became Man, can we say that Jesus is God. For unless He is the Son of God, then what He does in His manhood for us men and for our salvation cannot avail and succeed. Likewise, only if the Spirit is truly the Third Person, the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father through the Son, will there be a people who are truly “the temple of the Holy Spirit” and “the Body of Christ” – a fellowship of believers who are being sanctified and deified by the Spirit as they enjoy the privilege of being adopted “sons of God” in union with the only begotten Son of the Father.
In fact, all the major doctrines of the Christian religion fall like a pack of cards if there is no dogma of the Holy Trinity. If God-as-God-is-in-Himself is not permanently the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Three Persons and one Godhead, then Christianity is based upon a false foundation. It is not enough to say that “God-as-God-is-towards-us” is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; we must also confess that God is truly a Trinity, Triad, and Triunity permanently and before all ages. And liturgy which is meant to contain the lex credendi (the law of believing) ought also to be constructed upon and around this dogma! In fact the Council of Carthage in 397 insisted on the Triitarian character of the Eucharistic Prayer: Ut nemo in precibus vel Patrem pro Filio vel Filium pro Patre nominet; et cum altari adsistitur semper ad Patrem dirigatur oratio (“Let no one in praying replace the Father’s name by the Son’s or the Son’s by the Father’s, and prayer at the altar is always to be addressed to the Father”). All the ancient Roman formularies followed this plan.
The Tridentine Mass (1570) has this Preface before the Canon and after the Sursum Corda:
It is truly right and just, proper and fitting for our salvation, that we should always and everywhere give Thee thanks, holy Lord, almighty Father, eternal God. With Thy only-begotten Son and the Holy Ghost, Thou art one God and one Lord – not one as a single person, but Three Persons in one substance. Whatever we believe, by Thy revelation, about Thy glory, we believe the same about Thy Son and the Holy Ghost, without any difference or distinction. So, acknowledging the true and eternal Godhead, we adore each distinct Person in a unity of essence and an equality of majesty. In praise of this, the angels and archangels, the cherubim and seraphim also lift up their voices day by day, saying with one accord...
Here, of course, are echoes of the Athanasian Creed and certain similarities with Cranmer’s Preface for Trinity Sunday.
Finally, when we ask the question, “What is worship?” we see clearly the importance of the dogma of the Holy Trinity. Christian worship is nothing less than (a) a real and vital communion with our God, the Father Almighty, the Creator of all things visible and invisible; (b) a real and vital participation in the life of Jesus Christ, Incarnate God, whose life is extended into and is encountered in the Church; and (c) a continuing and unending reception of the Holy Spirit, the Lifegiver, who prepares us to be authentic members of the household of God, the Body of Christ.
The Father comes to us in and by His Son and in and through His Holy Spirit. We come to the Father through the Son and in the Holy Spirit. Thus we are united to the Holy Trinity for eternal salvation.
5 IDENTIFYING JESUS
Thousands over the centuries have asked, “Who is Jesus?” and many answers have been given. In fact, Jesus Himself may be said to have set this ball rolling, beginning this series of questions by saying to His disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:15–16). Later, when Jesus, now the resurrected Lord Christ (Messiah), encountered Thomas, this disciple, who had doubted the truth of His being raised from the dead, addressed Him as “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28). And Paul, the converted Pharisee, explained that “in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” (Col. 2:9).
In the light of these texts, along with hundreds of others which are found in the New Testament, it is not surprising that the apostolic Church believed that Jesus was God in the flesh, God made Man. Later, at Nicea in 325 the bishops stated with great clarity that in whatever sense the Father is God, so also is the Son. Jesus, the Son Incarnate, is “God of God, Light of Light, Very God of very God,” that is of one essence or substance with the Father in terms of His Deity/Godhead. Yet the Son is not the Father, and the Father is not the Son. It was the Son, not the Father or the Holy Spirit, who took His flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary and became incarnate “for us men and for our salvation.”
Who is He?
So we may say that the identity of Jesus has three phases or aspects. First, there is His existence as the Son of the Father and in the communion of the Holy Spirit within the Holy Trinity: this is beyond and above all eternity, infinity, space, and time. Further, this phase is really not a phase, for it relates to what He is permanently within the one Godhead now and for ever and unto the ages of ages. This identity of His within the Trinity is declared in the Athanasian Creed and in the traditional Anglican Proper Preface for Trinity Sunday (1928 BCP, p.79).
Then, secondly, without in any way diminishing or reducing His Deity, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity took to Himself our human nature. He the Son became Man and took the name Jesus. As the incarnate Son, He fulfilled the role of the Messiah of the Jews as He became the Suffering Servant of God. This earthly ministry came to an end and reached its climax when He as the Lamb of God offered Himself as a sacrifice for the sin of the world on the cross at Calvary. This phase is conveyed through the regular reading of the New Testament in the Daily Offices, in the traditional Collects and Readings for the major Feasts of Christmas, Epiphany and Easter, as well as in the description of His Atonement in the Prayer of Consecration of the 1928 BCP and Rite I of the 1979 book.
The third phase began with His resurrection when he rose from the dead in His transformed, supernaturalized body and took His perfected and glorified body/human nature into heaven. Here, as the exalted Messiah in His human nature, He was crowned the King of all kings and the Lord of all lords. His crowning was not because He is permanently the Son of the Father in the One Godhead, but because He is also the Son of Man, Jesus of Nazareth. He rules His Church, energizes His Church, and sends His Church out into the world to preach the Gospel. In and by Him those who believe are brought by the Holy Spirit to the Father for salvation and sanctification and to be adopted as His children. This phase is conveyed both by the many Scripture readings from the Epistles which describe the place and ministry of Jesus Christ in heaven and by Collects and Proper Prefaces such as those for Ascension Day and Whitsunday (Pentecost).
Another way of stating the identity of Jesus in biblical, dynamic images, and a way used by both Catholics and Protestants, is to present Him as our Prophet, Priest, and King. In His public ministry He was truly and visibly the Prophet of the LORD, for He declared the Word of the Lord and performed the deeds of the LORD. For three years His roles or offices as Priest and King were partially or even wholly hidden from view. In His Passion and on His Cross He as the Priest of God presented Himself as the sacrificial offering. Further, from the Cross He reigned as the crucified King of the kingdom of heaven. By His resurrection He was vindicated, and as the Son of Man He was exalted to heaven “for us men and for our salvation.” He now reigns over the cosmos and Church as the exalted King; He ministers for the Church and human race as the exalted High Priest, making intercession for His disciples; and He proclaims God’s Word in the Spirit and through His messengers to the whole earth. Thus the way of salvation, the way of worship, the way of prayer, and the way of daily service is through the Lord Jesus, our King, Priest, and Prophet, to the Father by the Spirit in faith, hope, and love. At the end of the age the Lord Jesus will return to the earth as King of all kings and Lord of all lords to consummate the purposes of the Father and complete His redemptive work.
Apart from the long paragraph in the Nicene Creed concerning the relation of Jesus as the Son to the Almighty Father, there are other important doctrinal statements concerning the identity of Jesus; for example, the second of the Articles of Religion:
The Son, which is the Word of the Father, begotten from everlasting of the Father, the very and eternal God, and of one substance with the Father, took Man’s nature in the womb of the blessed Virgin, of her substance: so that two whole and perfect Natures, that is to say, the Godhead and the Manhood, were joined together in one Person, never to be divided, whereof is one Christ, very God and very Man; who truly suffered, was crucified, dead, and buried, to reconcile His Father to us, and to be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for all actual sins of men.
Here we have the fusion of the teaching of the Council of Chalcedon (451) on the Person of Christ with the later western teaching from Augustine and Anselm on the Atonement of Christ. The teaching of the Fourth Ecumenical Council, often called “the Chalcedonian Definition,” is printed in the historical documents at the back of the 1979 book (p.864) and the essence of its content is presented in the second half of the Athanasian Creed (see p.865).
From the Athanasian Creed we learn in the most precise terms what was for the Western Church the orthodox doctrine of the true identity of the Lord Jesus:
For the right Faith is, that we believe and confess: that our Lord Jesus. Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man;
God, of the Substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds [ages]: 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 the Manhood into God;
One altogether; not by confusion of Substance: but by unity of Person.
For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man: so God and Man is one Christ;
Who suffered for our salvation: descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead...
While this confession of faith may seem highly cerebral and lacking the warmth of the descriptions of the Lord Jesus in the Gospels, it was necessary for two reasons. First of all, it served to create the structure of the Christian mind (or mindset) for believers as they approached the Scriptures and participated in the liturgy. In the second place, it existed to save believers from being drawn into erroneous doctrines (e.g., that Jesus was truly God but only seemed to be a Man; or that He was not really God made Man, but a Man whom God adopted from the moment of his conception).
The faith of Christians is nourished from the hearing and reading of the sacred Scriptures, and for this there is no substitute: this is why the Daily Office is virtually all reading from the Scriptures in the morning and the evening. However, the right structure of doctrine in the mind helps one process the hearing and reading of the Word of God so that it becomes truly food for the soul. Of course, there must also be the presence of the Holy Spirit as the Illuminator of the very Word He caused to be written by the pens of men; otherwise, the Scripture can be used merely to support dogma or ideology and be read at the level of the letter and not the Spirit.
When we examine the 1979 BCP and such additional material as PBS 30 and The Proper for the Lesser Feasts and Fasts, we find that they contain both the classical doctrine of the Person of Christ and other teaching, which is either a variation of it or a plain denial of it. Thus we meet relativism here as we did also with the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. The appearance alongside each other of several incompatible doctrines of the Person of Christ leads the reader/user of the liturgy to assume that variety in teaching (a kind of doctrinal smorgasbord) is to be preferred to doctrinal clarity and accuracy.
For immediate contact with the orthodox teaching concerning the identity and work of the Lord Jesus in the 1979 book we look at the traditional translations of the Creeds, the traditional Collects, and the Eucharistic Prayer A of Rite I. It is also found here and there throughout the contents of the Book – e.g., in Collects of Rite II as well as in other places – e.g., the Great Vigil of Easter (pp. 284ff.).
We meet alternative or modified teaching when we turn to the newer versions of the Creeds. Doubt concerning the virginal conception of Jesus is raised in the 1979 book by the addition to both the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds in Rite II of the expression “by the power of” to “the Holy Spirit.” (Interestingly, throughout this book there is evidence that its composers were fond of empowering, for they add “by the power of” in various places – e.g., in the absolution – pp.80 & 117.) Instead of “by the Holy Spirit” (which is a faithful rendering of the original languages), we are given “by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Now an orthodox mind can read this extra phrase in such a way as to assume orthodoxy; but, when one learns that one reason for the addition was to allow people to take the Creed to mean that the conception of Jesus was like that of, say, Isaac or John the Baptist (somewhat against the normal run of nature), then dishonest translation is exposed. All conceptions are by the power of the Holy Spirit, but that of Jesus was unique, for it was “by the Holy Spirit” Himself!
It is perhaps worth noting that these translations in the 1979 book are now out of date, for the commission (ICET) which produced them has radically revised them in an inclusivist, anti-sexist direction. In so doing, however, it has heard criticisms and has left out “by the power of” from both Creeds, as can be seen in the translations of the two Creeds printed as part of the new rites in PBS 30.
Doubt concerning the pre-existence of the Son before the conception in the womb of Mary is raised by the section in the Catechism entitled “The Son” (p. 849). The statement, “Jesus is the only Son of God,” is explained as meaning that “Jesus is the only perfect image of the Father, and shows us the nature of God.” Then Jesus is called “his divine Son” (a strange expression) who “received our human nature from the Virgin Mary, his mother, by God’s own act.” Within the general context of the teaching of the Catechism concerning God (which I take to be modalism – see chapter 4), the natural meaning of what is specifically taught there concerning the identity of Jesus is that God, the Creator who is called the Father Almighty, adopted Him from the moment of His conception. Thus God deliberately placed Himself in the closest possible union with this unique Man and then in and through Him worked out His saving will and purposes. So He is effectively the God-Man who may be called “His divine Son” because He is the uniquely adopted Son who is lifted higher than the angels; further, He may also be called “his eternal Son,” for, from the moment of conception He lives and will live forever as the uniquely adopted Son of God, closer to God than any other creature in heaven or on earth. In the early Church such teaching was called Nestorianism and was rejected because it clearly denies that there is a genuine Incarnation. One of the purposes of the Definition of the Council of Chalcedon and the Athanasian Creed was to reject such teaching as incompatible with the clear teaching of Holy Scripture.
It would seem also that the words of the Nicene Creed (Rite II) – “we believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father” – allow a Nestorian reading. That is, “eternally begotten” can mean begotten at a point in space and time in order to live eternally from then. A better translation of the original would point to the truth that He was begotten of the Father before all worlds (ages) and thus clearly establishes His pre-existence before becoming Man. However, I accept that a Nestorian interpretation of this version of the Creed is shown to be false if, and only if, the rest of what is said about Jesus in the second article of the Creed is taken as being propositional truth. That is, the statements are not merely evocative, intended to create good thoughts of Jesus but informative of what is the case; and, further, the use of “Being” does not imply that the Creed is to be read through the eyes of existentialist theology from either Rahner or MacQuarrie, for whom God is “Being.”
The possibility that Nestorianism is intended or allowed in the Eucharistic Prayers of Rite II also exists. In A we hear of “your only and eternal Son,” in C of “your only Son, born of a woman,” and in neither of the Prayers is belief in the pre-existence of the Son strictly required by the literal meaning of the texts. The point I am making is that none of the new Eucharistic Prayers seems to have been written with the intention of excluding Nestorianism (or, for that matter, of abiding clearly within the principles of the Definition of Chalcedon). Part of the problem here may be that modern liturgists take as models eucharistic prayers which pre-date the clarification of dogma by the fathers in the early Church. Thus they do not have the precision concerning the identity of the Lord Jesus which is found, for example, in the Greek Liturgy (of Chrysostom and Basil), where the development of the doctrines of the Trinity and Christology are taken for granted.
What may be said concerning the identity of the Lord Jesus in Rite II may also be said concerning His saving work on the Cross. In their legitimate desire to include greater reference to the Incarnation and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the creators of the Eucharistic Prayers in Rite II have not been as clear as they could have been concerning the purpose and nature of His sacrificial, atoning death in relation to sin. We hear that His death was “a perfect sacrifice for the whole world” (p. 362), but why was the text not “a perfect sacrifice for the sins of the whole world?” (Regrettably, we also meet the same phenomenon in Rite I, Prayer II, which is an attempt to simplify and rewrite Prayer I.) Maybe those who wrote these prayers were so much a part of the general revulsion felt in liturgical circles in the 1960s against the presumed excessive emphasis of the Common Prayer Tradition – both on sin and penitence and upon the death of Jesus as a propitiation and expiation – that they went too far in the opposite direction.
The whole subject of the Atonement is also complicated through a bad translation in the Fraction Anthem, provided, apparently, to allow people to make more of the sacrifice of the Eucharist than traditional Anglican theology has done. For both Rite I and Rite II the optional Fraction Anthem said after the celebrant breaks the Bread is “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us,” to which the reply is “Therefore let us keep the feast.” There are apparently two sources for this Anthem. First of all, there is Paul’s statement, “For Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us, therefore, celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Cor. 5:7–8, RSV). The tense of the Greek verb is one for which there is no exact parallel in modern English. It is in the aorist passive and conveys the idea that what happened once (the death on the Cross as the unique and last Passover Lamb) in a specific place and at a known time has not only meaning but also efficacy for all space and time. Old English conveyed this meaning by saying that Christ “is sacrificed,” and this translation is found where the text of Paul is used in the Common Prayer Tradition within what have been called “the Easter Anthems” (1928 BCP, p. 162, and the 1979 BCP, p. 46). However, it is hardly the best way to translate the Greek today into modern English. Either “was sacrificed” or “has been sacrificed” would be better – as the 1979 book itself recognizes on page 83.
The second source for the Fraction Anthem is the 1549 BCP, (but not the 1552 and later Books of the Common Prayer Tradition), where the celebrant says: “Christ our Paschal Lamb is offered up for us, once for all, when He bare our sins on His body upon the Cross, for He is the very Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world: wherefore let us keep a joyful and holy feast with the Lord.” Here we see how the past and the present are united in such a way that no one could think that the priest was reoffering the once-for-all atoning Sacrifice of Christ offered at Calvary at Passover, and yet at the same time no one could think that worshippers were not benefiting from that Sacrifice once offered by the living Lord Jesus Christ.
The point (as made often by evangelical Episcopalians) is that the tense, and the very brevity, of the words in the 1979 text (which are not in the 1985 text) can give the impression that Christ is being sacrificed all over again in the Eucharist. Or the words can suggest that there is something unique about the actual breaking of the bread in public view. Thus evangelicals follow the RSV and say, “Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us,” preferring “has been sacrificed” to “is sacrificed.” And they cite Article XXXI:
The offering of Christ once made is that perfect redemption, propitiation, and satisfaction, for all the sins of the whole world, both original and actual; and there is none other satisfaction for sin but that alone. Wherefore the sacrifices of Masses, in which it was commonly said, that the Priest did offer Christ for the quick and the dead, to have remission of pain or guilt, were blasphemous fables and dangerous deceits.
The modern situation is not like the late medieval situation, but nevertheless the evangelicals’ point is an important one.
The 1979 Catechism also fails to do justice to the redemptive suffering and atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are told that “by his obedience, even to suffering and death, Jesus made the offering which we could not make; in him we are freed from the power of sin and reconciled to God” (p.850). This is true as far as it goes, but why were we not told that His offering was because of and for sin (see Hebrews 10:5ff.)?
What may be judged by some only to be minor omissions and suggestive hints in Rite II become clearer errors in PBS 30. In the second of the Eucharistic Prayers, which has the theme of “God bringing to birth and nourishing the whole creation,” it is difficult to find the Jesus of the Gospel and the Creeds and to ascertain any saving and moral purpose to His death. This is because here the doctrine of God is panentheism (the world is in God and inseparable from His being).
All this is in contrast to the clear statements concerning the death of Jesus in the classic Eucharistic Prayer of the Common Prayer Tradition (found also in Rite I, Prayer 1). It is said that the Lord Jesus made at Calvary “a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world.” This may seem wordy, but by it we learn that this bloody death of the Incarnate Son of God is the fulfillment and perfection of all the sacrifices required by the Law of Moses; is cosmic in its value and effects; being for all people everywhere; and always and wholly satisfies the just wrath and holy demands of the Father for the punishment of sin; and is a perfect expiation for the sin of the world.
There are problems also with respect to the Person of Christ in some of the new collects produced for The Proper for the Lesser Feasts and Fasts (1980). Take for example, that produced for remembering Leo the Great (p. 371), who died in 461. He is the author of the famous Letter concerning the Person of Christ which is included in the documents of the Council of Chalcedon (451). Before the 1980 edition of The Proper the Church used an edition of 1963 entitled The Calendar and the Collects for the Lesser Feasts. The collect there (p. 99) reads:
Almighty, everlasting God, whose servant Leo steadfastly confessed thy Son our Savior Jesus Christ to be Very God and Very Man: Grant that we may hold fast to this faith, and evermore magnify His holy Name; through the same thy Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
This contains the main theme of Leo’s Letter, namely, that there is One Person (the Lord Jesus Christ) who has two natures, divine and human, and who is therefore truly God and truly Man.
The writer of the modern collect seems to have been under the spell of existentialist theology and to have felt the need to insert the word “Being.” Thus he wrote:
O Lord our God, grant that thy Church, following the teaching of thy servant Leo of Rome, may hold fast the great mystery of our redemption, and adore the one Christ, true God and true Man, neither divided from our human nature nor separate from thy divine Being; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Had the writer left out everything from “neither” up to “our Lord,” it would have been a better prayer. As it stands, it is at best confusing and at worst Nestorian. While “divided” is in the past tense, “separate” is in the present tense and this difference in tense is probably very significant. There is no doubt that Jesus the Christ is really and truly a Man sharing the same flesh and blood and human nature as the rest of us. However, there is no separate Person of the Son, for here the One called the Son is in fact the One God (“O Lord our God”) in perfect union with the Man, Jesus. Thus the Person of “God” in the “God-Man” is not separate from the Person who has “Being” as the “Lord our Lord”! There is no distinction of Persons (the Father and the Son) who share one and the same being, substance and essence (= Godhead), but One God who acts and appears in different modes.
The evaluation of the Person of the Lord Jesus in the BAS is indicated by what is allowed and commended as an alternative to the Apostles’ Creed in the Daily Office. We are offered as an alternative to (a revised) Apostles’ Creed the ancient Jewish Shema: “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deut. 6:4). It is explained that “the Apostles’ Creed and the ‘Hear, O Israel’ are complementary: the first stresses faith as teaching, the second emphasizes faith as action” (p.42). However, the New Testament teaches us to read the Old Testament in the light of Jesus, the Christ. This means that a great OT passage such as the Shema cannot of itself be a confession of faith for Christians unless its content is “unpacked” in the light of the Revelation in and by Jesus. As its long second paragraph indicates, Jesus is very much at the center of the Apostles’ Creed, but He is not mentioned in the Shema. Yet what the Shema means to Christians is, “the LORD our God (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit), the LORD is one,” but there is no indication of this in the text or the notes. The ancient creed of the synagogue is given as a strict alternative to the baptismal creed of the Christian Church.
Of course, there is much in the BAS which can be read in the light of the Definition of Chalcedon. However, since the BAS contains modalist formulations (adopted from the American 1979 book), since it uses the modern translations of both Creeds, since its Eucharistic Prayers give insufficient emphasis to the atoning sacrifice for sin of our Lord, and since it does not have a translation of the Athanasian Creed available as an alternative anywhere, it is a book which opens its doors to the charge of relativism and to less than orthodox doctrines of the identity and saving work of the Lord Jesus.
A striking example of the diminution of classic Christology in the BAS (as also in PBS 30) is the suppression of the second half of the traditional antiphon, “O Come let us adore Him,” after the Venite (p. 47). I suspect that this reveals an acceptance of the radical divorce of the risen Christ (who/which is androgenous?) from the admittedly male Jesus.
Both the 1979 and 1985 books use a Psalter which is intended to be partially inclusivist. In chapter seven we shall address the subject of inclusive language. Here we need only note how the principle of inclusivism affects how Jesus Christ is related to Scripture or where we find Jesus Christ in Scripture. In the New Testament there are ninety-three quotations from over sixty Psalms. Jesus is reported as quoting the Psalms more often than any other book of the Old Testament. For the early Christians the Psalter was “David’s Prophecy” concerning the One who fulfilled the promise made by the LORD to the king (2 Sam. 7:12–14; cf. Ps. 132:11–12). So every psalm was understood as an address between the Father and the Son or between the Church and her Lord (or Redeemer/Savior). The Psalter was thus seen as Christ’s Prayer Book. (I have explained this in detail in my Knowing God through the Liturgy, chapter 7.)
The translators of the Psalter for the 1979 book were obviously aware of this holy tradition, and they kept it in mind in part. Psalms which were specifically related to Jesus in the New Testament, and/or have been used liturgically as referring to Him as the Christ, were translated in a regular or literal way in order to preserve their liturgical use as prophecies of Christ. But others which belong in devotion to the “Christologizing” of the Psalter were subjected to the principle of inclusivism which meant the removal of generic and male-centered language (e.g., “man” and “children of men”) wherever possible. So, for example, in Psalm 1 we read, “Happy are they” instead of “Happy is the man.” We may observe that by this principle of inclusivism the ancient Christian use of the Psalms, as prayed with and in Jesus, is made very difficult, even impossible. If the “man” of Psalm 1 is taken to be the Lord Jesus, then we pray this psalm as those who are with Him as his disciples and in Him because in His Body, the church. If, however, we have to say “they,” then we are puzzled as to “who are they?”
From the time of John Cassian (360–435), monk and contemplative of the Eastern and Western Church, the Church held the theory of the fourfold sense of Scripture. The literal, common-sense meaning could, and usually in fact did, nurture the three theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity. However, when the literal sense did not obviously or easily produce this nurture, the expositor of the text could appeal to three additional senses, each of which corresponded to one of the three virtues. The allegorical sense pointed to the Church and what it should believe concerning the Lord Jesus Christ, and thus it corresponded to the virtue of faith. Then the moral or tropological sense taught about what a Christian should do as a disciple of Christ, child of God, and. member of the Church, and so it corresponded to the virtue of love. Finally, the anagogical sense pointed to what God had in store in the future for those who believed in Jesus Christ, and thus in awakening and sustaining such conviction it corresponded to the virtue of hope.
A thousand or so years after Cassian, when this method had long been used to expound and explain Scriptures in monastery and parish, Nicholas of Lyra summarized it in Latin verse:
Littera gesta docet; (The letter teaches deeds;
Quid credas allegoria; (Allegory, what you should believe;
Moralis quid agas; (The moral what you should do;
Quo tendas anagogia. (Anagogy, whither you should strive.
It is perhaps important to point out that the literal sense was that which God intended as the primary Author as He inspired and spoke through the personality of the human author. Therefore, following this approach, Psalm 1 is a psalm about the Lord Jesus Christ and of what His followers are to be as they are united to Him in faith, love, and hope. In modern times we have gotten so fixed on ascertaining the original intention of the human author(s) that we seem to have lost this spiritual and moral approach to the Scriptures. Further, when the ideology of inclusivism is forced into the sacred text, then it becomes more difficult or even impossible to pray the psalms as a Christian believer.
I do not want to suggest that the Psalter is to be interpreted in an individualistic way (see further chapter six below). Each Christian, along with other Christians, is to read and pray the psalms as a member of the new Israel and thus a member of Christ’s Body. As one writer has explained:
The key to the interpretation of the Psalter is that it is intended primarily for united use. The word ‘I’ in the Psalter does not mean the person who is reciting the words. It denotes the Lord himself; or the Church united with him; and if it is applicable to the individual worshipper, it applies to him only as a member of Christ and the Church. The worshippers are meant to use the words, not to express their own personal sentiments, but in order to enter into the mind of Christ and his Church (G.D. Carleton, The English Psalter, 1945, p.24).
In my book entitled Knowing God through the Liturgy I make similar points in my explanation of praying the psalms. Examples of Psalms where the “I” is Christ and only secondarily the “I” of each member of His Body are Psalms 116–119.
We shall return to the question of inclusive language in chapter seven. Here the point is that to force inclusive language into a translation of the Psalter is to take the Lord Jesus out of “David's Prophecy” and thus out of liturgical devotion.
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