The Presence and Eloquence of God

God speaks as in the Spirit Jesus Christ speaks. The eternal Word made flesh, now enthroned at the right hand of the Father, is present and eloquent. His state of exaltation does not entail his absence from or silence within the realm within which he once acted in self-humiliation; rather, his exaltation is the condition for and empowerment of his unhindered activity and address of creatures. This address takes the form of Holy Scripture. To accomplish his communicative mission, the exalted Son takes into his service a textual tradition, a set of human writings, so ordering their course that by him they are made into living creaturely instruments of his address of living creatures. Extending himself into the structures and practices of human communication in the sending of the Holy Spirit, the divine Word commissions and sanctifies these texts to become fitting vehicles of his self-proclamation. He draws their acts into his own act of self-utterance, so that they become the words of the Word, human words uttered as a repetition of the divine Word, existing in the sphere of the divine Word’s authority, effectiveness and promise.

John Webster, The Domain of the Word: Scripture and Theological Reason (London/New York: T&T Clark International. A Continuum Imprint, 2012), 8.

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To Whom You Owe the Fact

Recognise to whom you owe the fact that you exist, that you breathe, that you understand, that you are wise, and, above all, that you know God and hope for the kingdom of heaven and the vision of glory, now darkly as in a mirror but then with greater fullness and purity. You have been made a son of God, co-heir with Christ. Where did you get all this, and from whom?

Let me turn to what is of less importance: the visible world around us. What benefactor has enabled you to look out upon the beauty of the sky, the sun in its course, the circle of the moon, the countless number of stars, with the harmony and order that are theirs, like the music of a harp? Who has blessed you with rain, with the art of husbandry, with different kinds of food, with the arts, with houses, with laws, with states, with a life of humanity and culture, with friendship and the easy familiarity of kinship?

Who has given you dominion over animals, those that are tame and those that provide you with food? Who has made you lord and master of everything on earth? In short, who has endowed you with all that makes man superior to all other living creatures?
Is it not God who asks you now in your turn to show yourself generous above all other creatures and for the sake of all other creatures? Because we have received from him so many wonderful gifts, will we not be ashamed to refuse him this one thing only, our generosity? Though he is God and Lord he is not afraid to be known as our Father. Shall we for our part repudiate those who are our kith and kin?

Brethren and friends, let us never allow ourselves to misuse what has been given us by God’s gift. If we do, we shall hear Saint Peter say: Be ashamed of yourselves for holding on to what belongs to someone else. Resolve to imitate God’s justice, and no one will be poor. Let us not labour to heap up and hoard riches while others remain in need. If we do, the prophet Amos will speak out against us with sharp and threatening words: Come now, you that say: When will the new moon be over, so that we may start selling? When will the sabbath be over, so that we may start opening our treasures?

Let us put into practice the supreme and primary law of God. He sends down rain on just and sinful alike, and causes the sun to rise on all without distinction. To all earth’s creatures he has given the broad earth, the springs, the rivers and the forests. He has given the air to the birds, and the waters to those who live in the water. He has given abundantly to all the basic needs of life, not as a private possession, not restricted by law, not divided by boundaries, but as common to all, amply and in rich measure. His gifts are not deficient in any way, because he wanted to give equality of blessing to equality of worth, and to show the abundance of his generosity.

Gregory of Nazianzus. Oratio, 14.

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Null on the Laudian Reforms

In his 2014 Assumptiontide lecture for Forward in Faith, Colin Podmore said of the English reformation:

If we date the English Reformation as beginning with the summoning of the Reformation Parliament in 1529, then it took over 130 years to get to the definitive settlement of 1662, marked by the introduction of the Prayer Book that is still in use and the expulsion of clergy who refused to be ordained by a bishop or to use the new book. When we consider the Reformation, we need to think of that whole period, what one might call ‘the long Reformation’. We speak of the ‘Elizabethan settlement’, but in 1650, during the Interregnum, when there were no bishops and no Prayer Book, that ‘settlement’ would not have seemed definitive. Only in 1662, at the end of those 130 years, did the pendulum finally stop swinging so violently; only then did things settle into a form that – as it turned out – lasted into the nineteenth century and beyond. So my first methodological point is that in looking at Anglican identity we need to look at the whole of this formative period and not pick out one particular year, decade or reign. The authoritative texts are the historic formularies mentioned in the Declaration of Assent (the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, the 1662 Ordinal, and the Thirty-Nine Articles, finalized in 1571). When we try to interpret those texts in the light of what people believed, the views of bishops and theologians in the 1630s are at least as worthy of consideration as the views of bishops and theologians in the 1550s.

I posted this to a Anglican discussion group on Facebook, and Archbishop Peter Robinson of the United Episcopal Church added a few clarifying points:

I tend to refer to both a “Long Reformation” 1529-1662, and the “Short Reformation 1533-1563/71.” The former is from the first shot to the fat lady singing, and the latter is the period of time it took to put the basic theological and legal framework in place. . . Trouble is there are Laudians, and Laudians. Cosin certinly had a significant input into the final shape of the 1662 BCP, but it was only minor reforms that were accepted such as the rubrics in the Prayer of Consecration, and concerning the Offertory and the disposal of the consecrated elements. A reordering of the service along the lines of the 1637 Scottish BCP was definitely rejected mainly at the behest of Juxon and Sheldon. OTOH, I think these changes were mainly house keeping changes not theological ones, so from my point of view the theological/liturgical Reformation is basically 1533-1571, with the remain 90 years being a painful process of everything bedding down. 1662 is NOT a victory for the Laudians, but for the Elizabethan Settlement as being the best hope for long term religious stability in England.

Ashley Null was also kind enough to reply, with a few very excellent points worth consideration:

If the 1662 BCP in many ways rejected the the theology of the 1630s, refusing to incorporate the major liturgical changes sought by the Laudian divines (there is a reason why the American church follows the prayer book tradition of the Non-jurors and NOT the 1662!), even to the point of reinserting the Black Rubric, why should we not return to the sixteenth-century formularies for guidance like the 1662 prayer book did on such an essential point as the nature of the Eucharist? Moreover, the 1662 settlement didn’t itself hold. Its failure at creating a broad-based consensus resulted in the 1689 Act of Toleration for dissenters, the Non-Jurors (i.e, the high church Laudians) leaving the C of E leadership and the “long-eighteenth-century” of latitudinarian bishops as their replacements. Why then should we privilege the theology of the 1630s as the prism through which to read Anglicanism when the 1662 BCP failed to do so, and then within a generation the leaders of the Laudian party were no longer even in the Church of England, since their theology of divine right of kings was officially rejected? Continue reading

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Nativity Homily of St. Isaac of Nineveh

This Christmas night [Christ] bestowed peace on the whole world;
So let no one threaten;

This is the night of the Most Gentle One –
Let no one be cruel;

This is the night of the Humble One –
Let no one be proud.

Now is the day of joy –
Let us not revenge;

Now is the day of Good Will –
Let us not be mean.

In this Day of Peace –
Let us not be conquered by anger.

Today the Bountiful impoverished Himself for our sake;
So, rich one, invite the poor to your table.

Today we receive a Gift for which we did not ask;
So let us give alms to those who implore and beg us.

This present Day casts open the heavenly doors to our prayers;
Let us open our door to those who ask our forgiveness.

Today the Divine Being took upon Himself the seal of our humanity,
In order for humanity to be decorated by the seal of divinity.

Christ is Born!
Glorify Him!

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Liturgy in Early Jesus Worship

A series of proto-credal or liturgical formulae can be discerned cerned in the text which suggest that it is natural to speak twice or thrice over when speaking of God. On the basis of the claim that the text is authoritative revelation, indeed, this is not just natural, but necessary. The two most obvious are the un-self-conscious doubling of the Shema—the fundamental confession of Old Testament monotheism/monolatry ism/monolatry (Deut. 6:4-5)—in 1 Corinthians 8:6, and the triadic baptismal formula in Matthew 28:19, but we could add many others (to take only a few of the most striking triadic patterns: 1 Cor. 12:4-6; 2 Cor. 13:13; Gal. 4:6; Eph. 4:4-6; Rev. 1:4-5). To speak of God in formal confession or in worship seems to need mention of Jesus, and often of the Spirit. This fact makes it even more astonishing that, as far as we can determine, amidst all the variety of primitive Christianity, the worship of Jesus as divine was simply ubiquitous. The evidence is there already in the New Testament, even in the earliest strata, the Pauline letters: prayer is offered to the Father ‘through Jesus Christ’ (Rom. 1:8), and to the Father and Jesus together (1 Thess. 3:11-13); benedictions can be uttered in either name (Rom. 16:20), or in the name of Jesus with no mention of the Father (1 Cor. 16:23).

What evidence we have of more formal worship practices reinforces this. In 1 Corinthians 16:22, a direct appeal to Jesus in Aramaic, marana tha, ‘Our Lord, come!’ is repeated without translation in a letter to a Greek-speaking church. The best understanding would seem to be that this is a piece of Aramaic liturgy so common that it is familiar even in a Greek church, and it is addressed directly to Jesus. When we recall that 1 Corinthians must be dated less than four decades after Jesus’ crucifixion, cifixion, we are presented with evidence that the worship of Jesus in formal liturgy was well established within three decades of his death. I have already mentioned the triadic baptismal formula, to which may be added the witness of Acts that baptism in the name of Jesus alone was also common (Acts 2:38; 8:16; 10:48). Those passages of the New Testament usually considered to be fragments of common Christian hymnody (e.g. John 1:1-18; Phil. 2:5-11; Col. 1:11-15) reinforce this picture of the centrality of worship offered to Jesus, as do the Christological reinterpretations of the Psalms (e.g. in Heb. 1), psalms which would have been sung or chanted in early Christian worship. Larry Hurtado has collected the evidence for this impressively, and notes that in the period he surveys (AD 30-170) Jesus was a central figure for all groups, and that all groups regarded him as divine. Hurtado says:

Amidst the diversity of earliest Christianity, belief in Jesus’ divine status was amazingly common. The ‘heresies’ of earliest Christianity largely presuppose the view that Jesus is divine. That is not the issue. The problematic issue, in fact, was whether a genuinely human Jesus could be accommodated. . . Additionally, in spite of the diversity, it is equally evident that Jesus was central in all forms of earliest Christianity, proto-orthodox or others, that we can describe with any confidence. This centrality of Jesus, and the uniqueness of his status in the various religious convictions of earliest Christians, also demanded, almost unavoidably, a new view of God.

The early Christian community worshipped Jesus, and was committed by those writings which it read in worship and regarded as Scripture to the belief that God could not be named adequately without out speaking of Jesus (and the Holy Spirit).

Holmes, Stephen R. The Quest for the Trinity: The Doctrine of God in Scripture, History, and Modernity. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2012. 54-55.

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Unity and Regula in Anglicanism

But if Anglicanism cannot decide what the Office is, tradition is quite firm upon the point: it is the daily, objective, corporate offering of praise to God the Father through Jesus Christ, it is a partaking in the eternal praise of the Church Triumphant by the Church Militant, and its unchanging, and I should say unchangeable, basis is the Psalter. In pastoral terms the Office thus becomes the practical expression of our unity in Christ of which the Eucharist is the ontological basis. Pastoral history and pastoral tradition teaches that this unity within the Church Militant must find expression, thus the departmentalism of the medieval, and modern Roman Church, is offset by the universality of the Rosary. For it is the Rosary, authorized by a long series of Popes, which alone forges a unity between prelate, priest and peasant; which attempts to heal the divisions between monks, friars, clerics and laity all doing different things out of a conglomeration of missals, breviaries, primers, mass-books and diurnals. But the Anglican expression of pastoral unity is not the Rosary but the Book of Common Prayer; we believe in a totally united Church without a clerical caste saying different prayers from the laity; we believe the bond of unity to be the fundamental pattern of the Catholic Church which does not need to be artificially glued together by popular devotions, however valuable they may be as such.

Thornton, Martin. Prism (April 1961): 3-7.

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The Classic High Churchman

A High Churchman in the Church of England tended to uphold in some form the doctrine of apostolical succession as a manifestation of his strong commitment to the Church’s catholicity and apostolicity as a branch of the universal church catholic, within which he did not include those reformed bodies which had abandoned episcopacy without any plea of necessity. He believed in the supremacy of Holy Scripture and set varying degrees of value on the testimony of authorised standards such as the Creeds, the Prayer Book and the Catechism. He valued the writings of the early Fathers, but more especially as witnesses and expositors of scriptural truth when a “catholic consent” of them could be established. He upheld in a qualified way the primacy of dogma and laid emphasis on the doctrine of sacramental grace, both in the eucharist and in baptism, while normally eschewing the Roman Catholic principle of ex opere operato. He tended to cultivate a practical spirituality based on good works nourished by sacramental grace and exemplified in acts of self-denial and charity rather than on any subjective conversion experience or unruly pretended manifestations of the Holy Spirit. He stressed the divine rather than popular basis of political allegiance and obligation. His political principles might be classed as invariably Tory though by no means always in a narrowly political party sense, and were characterised by a high view of kingship and monarchical authority. He upheld the importance of a religious establishment but insisted also on the duty of the state as a divinely-ordained rather than merely secular entity, to protect and promote the interests of the church.

Nockles, Peter Benedict. The Oxford Movement in Context: Anglican High Churchmanship, 1760-1857. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994. 25-26.

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