Tradition ~ It Must Live & Breathe

This is the kind of thing I love about the Anglican way:

After all, the great Confessions of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were hardly the product of leisured academics, saying their prayers and thinking through issues in an abstract way, without a care in the world. Those were turbulent, dangerous and violent times, and the Westminster Confession on the one hand, the Thirty-Nine Articles of my own church on the other, and many more besides, emerged from the titanic struggle to preach the gospel, to order the church, and to let both have their proper impact on the political and social world of the day, while avoiding the all too obvious mistakes of large parts of medieval Catholicism (equally obvious, it should be said, to many Roman Catholics then and now). When people in that situation are eager to make their point, they are likely to overstate it, just as we are today. Wise later readers will honor them, but not canonize them, by thinking through their statements afresh in the light of Scripture itself.

– N.T. Wright, Justification: God’s Plan & Paul’s Vision

An excellent description of the way that tradition works in the three-legged stool of Scripture, Reason & Tradition.

Devastating Consequences of Promiscuity: Real & Imagined

“In 1934 Cambridge anthropologist Dr. J. D. Unwin published Sex and Culture. In it he examined 86 cultures spanning 5,000 years with regard to the effects of both sexual restraint and sexual abandon. His perspective was strictly secular, and his findings were not based in moralistic dogma. He found, without exception, that cultures that practiced strict monogamy in marital bonds exhibited what he called creative social energy, and reached the zenith of production. Cultures that had no restraint on sexuality, without exception, deteriorated into mediocrity and chaos. In Houposia: The Sexual and Economic Foundations of a New Society, published posthumously, he summarized:

In human records, there is no instance of a society retaining its energy after a complete new generation has inherited a tradition which does not insist on pre-nuptial and post-nuptial continence. . . . The evidence is that in the past a class has risen to a position of political dominance because of its great energy and that at the period of its rising, its sexual regulations have always been strict. It has retained its energy and dominated the society so long as its sexual regulations have demanded both pre-nuptial and post-nuptial continence. . . .

I know of no exceptions to these rules.

Indeed, Unwin’s research, conducted from a secular perspective, demonstrated that all advanced societies studied, when at their cultural and productive apices, built temples to whatever gods they worshiped. It was in this subjugation of the secular to the sacred, of the limbic to the lobe, that they peaked in their self-control and, therefore, in their self-determination. Will Durant, who described himself as agnostic, also found that “there is no moral substitute” for religion in providing this tempering of the limbic.”

This entire post, up until this paragraph was excerpted from “Slave Master: How Pornography Drugs & Changes Your Brain” by Donald L. Hilton, Jr. in Salvo 13, Summer 2010. To understand the entire significance of this post’s title, please read the complete article! If you’re up to seriously exploring issues of sexual ethics, societal decay, promiscuity, addictive behaviors as illicit attempts to assuage life’s wounds, and the truth behind the facade of the homosexual agenda I would recommend not only the preceding article, but also the excellent collections of essays titled God, Gays & the Church: Human Sexuality in Christian Thinking , published by and available from the Latimer Trust.

Evangelical Identity

In 1981 J.I. Packer wrote a booklet for the Latimer Trust titled A Kind of Noah’s Ark? The Anglican Commitment to Comprehensiveness. It was Latimer Study 10, and referenced, among other things, a short list of the Evangelical Anglican Identifiers Packer first outlined in his 1978 monograph, The Evangelical Anglican Identity Problem. Both of these essays, along with one by N.T. Wright have been republished by The Latimer Trust in one volume as Anglican Evangelical Identity: Yesterday and Today (ISBN 9780946307951).

From the back cover of the new volume, published in 2008:

What does it mean to be both an Evangelical and an Anglican? Can these two theological identities be held together with integrity? How should Evangelical Anglicans relate to the rest of the Anglican Church? Thirty years ago two influential Evangelical thinkers, Jim Packer and Tom Wright, addressed these questions in short and provocative Latimer Studies. Their work remains stimulating and important, and is republished here for a new generation, with fresh prefaces reflecting on recent developments.

The Evangelical Anglican Identity Problem (Packer, 1978) asks what it means to be an Evangelical Anglican.

Evangelical Anglican Identity: The Connection Between Bible, Gospel & Church (Wright, 1980) builds upon Packer’s study, addressing Evangelical attitudes to the church.

A Kind of Noah’s Ark? (Packer, 1981) questions [and answers] how it is possible to be a consistent Evangelical in the Church of England.

Anyway, I would highly recommend the small book (172 pages) as worthwhile for anyone considering the Anglican Tradition, but what I’ve been aiming at was sharing the identifiers that Packer outlines and explores.

In my earlier study I noted as chief among the truths of which evangelicals are trustees:

  1. the supremacy of Scripture as God-given instruction, a sufficient, self-interpreting guide in all matters of faith and action;
  2. the majesty of Jesus Christ our sin-bearing divine Saviour and glorified King, by faith in whom we are justified;
  3. the lordship of the Holy Spirit, giver of spiritual life by animating, assuring, empowering and transforming the saints;
  4. the necessity of conversion, not as a stereotyped experience but as a regenerate condition, a state of faith in Christ evidenced by repentance and practical godliness;
  5. the priority of evangelism in the church’s agenda;
  6. the fellowship of believers (the faith-full) as the essence of the church’s life.[1]

I’d say that’s a pretty good list of essentials. One, in fact, which might serve well as a basis of ecumenical agreement. For those of you wondering why the Anglican focus on this evangelical identity thing…well, another quote from Packer would probably be the best answer here:

I am an Anglican not so much by sentiment or affection as by conviction….I cannot say that I ever particularly liked the Church of England as I found it, but I remain an Anglican out of conviction that here is the right place, for here I possess the truest, wisest and potentially richest heritage in all Christendom. One factor which holds me steady at this point is my veneration (the word is not too strong) for the Thirty-nine Articles, which seem to me not only to catch the substance and spirit of biblical Christianity superbly well, but also to provide as apt a model of the way to confess the faith in a divided Christendom as the world has yet seen.[2]

[1] J.I. Packer, “A Kind of Noah’s Ark? The Anglican Commitment to Comprehensiveness” (1981) in Anglican Evangelical Identity: Yesterday and Today by J.I. Packer & N.T. Wright (The Latimer Trust: London, 2008), 125-26.

[2] J.I. Packer & R.T. Beckwith, The Thirty-nine Articles: Their Place and Use Today (The Latimer Trust: London, 2006), p.1. “Preface to the First Edition” (1984).