Saturday, July 29, 2006

Icons, shrines, and Anglicanism

Iconoclasm, the destruction of images of Christ, the Virgin, or the Saints, stems from an insufficient appreciation of the full humanity of Christ, and as such it is a heresy. The creation of specific imagery of Christ and other Christian figures did not become prevalent until after the waning of paganism. Iconoclasm was most prevalent during these introductions; by the 8th Century a great deal of superstition had arisen in connection with the images and the debate concerning their use had become contentious (Moss, The Christian Faith, 1957, p 88). Saint John of Damascus clarified the issue of images as it related to Christology, stressing the reality of Christ’s humanity. The Second Council of Nicea in A.D. 787 condemned the iconoclasts and directed pictures be restored to the churches.

Churches north of the Alps not represented at Nicea II rejected the decrees of the council. The Council of Frankfort declared that pictures could be used in churches, but not worshipped (misunderstanding the nuances of Nicea II between "veneration" and "adoration" or worship). The authority of Nicea II was questioned by the theologians of the western Church as late as 1540. The Protestant Reformation ignited a new wave of iconoclasm in the West, especially in the churches of the Puritan, Presbyterian, and Reformed traditions. Iconoclasm did not affect Lutheranism to a great degree—crucifixes, statues, and paintings have been in continuous use in Lutheran worship since the Reformation.

Anglicans had varying views on the subject. The cross and candles upon the Altar were often retained by the high churchmen (for instance, Queen Elizabeth I kept an ornate crucifix in her chapel). Post-Reformation portraiture of Anglican divines such as Cranmer, Andrewes, and Laud demonstrated the development of a type of “Anglican iconography,” as did the continued practice of creating effigies for the monuments of the deceased prelates in English Cathedrals. During the Puritan Commonwealth much ancient Christian art left in place in England at the Anglican Reformation was thoughtlessly defaced (literally—it means to destroy the faces) or otherwise destroyed. Anglo-Catholic churches (from the late 1800s to the present) have brought back the crucifix, icons, and statues of Saints to Anglican places of worship, but the iconographic structure and organization of the images as found in the Eastern churches is often lacking. Indeed, in many parishes proportion and focus are lost amid a sea of statuary and images and a repetition of the crucifix.

While God the Father cannot be pictorially represented (He is never depicted in the icons of the Eastern Church, although He often is in the West—as an elderly mirror image of Christ; this is indeed an example of bad theology), both the Holy Ghost and Christ have been depicted in Eastern iconography, the Spirit as a dove or a tongue of fire, both images with biblical foundations. As Christ was Incarnate and fully assumed our human nature, it is not incorrect that His image can be likened as best we can assume He appeared in the flesh. Honor (veneration) paid to such an image is not to the wood or paint, but to the Person of Christ (just the same as when we bow in the Liturgy at the Name of Jesus, we bow not to vibrations in the air, but to the Incarnate Word). The ability to depict Christ as man, as Incarnate God, speaks to the truth of Christianity—we don’t just worship some unseen Deity. Even though we cannot imagine the glory of God the Father nor create any likeness of Him, we have the human attestation of His nature in the Person of Christ.

I have a Methodist relative (I come from that tradition myself and have a bust of John Wesley on my desk) and she has a picture of Jesus (normal European depiction: flowing blond hair, pale skin, blue eyes) in her bedroom. When I visited her house some time back she mentioned, looking at the picture, that she talks to Him every day. I knew what she meant, as would almost any other Christian. Nobody would think that she spoke to the picture or thought that it had any special power. She had an implicit theory of Christian iconography. She speaks not to the image, but to the One that it represents.

As Christ was Incarnate, we can depict Him and revere His image and likeness. As the Saints were humans, we can do likewise. We cannot think that the images have any value or power in and of themselves. They are not magic. I believe most protestants have an understanding of icons close to the understanding of the Second Council of Nicea, even though they might abhor or question their use in Lutheran, Orthodox, Anglican or Roman Catholic worship. Pictures of Christ (or even the Holy Family, if it is Christmas time) might be set upon the mantle and treated with respect in Christian homes of many traditions. If someone were to come into the home and spit upon the image of Christ or smash the crèche the person would probably be horrified, because they would rightly interpret the attack upon the image as an attack on the idea of Christianity or the person of Jesus. If a Democrat has a picture of Kennedy on the wall or the Republican a picture of Reagan and a visitor looks at the image and expresses pleasure or disdain, almost everyone knows that the displeasure or appreciation is directed at the person, not at the image.

The Affirmation of Saint Louis embraces the Seven Ecumenical Councils without qualification. The Constitution and Canons of the Reformed Episcopal Church states: “Nicea II (787). . .is disputed in respect of its ecumenicity and application, though in principle its condemnation of Iconoclasm is conceded to be orthodox.” Therefore, the bulk of classical Anglicanism embraces the theology of Nicea II. The main questions that remain for many classical Anglicans pertain not to the general theological conclusions of Nicea II, but rather to the wording of many of the directives within the pronouncements of the Council. The canons resulting from this council do not just allow for images in places of worship, but direct that images be placed in all churches and that honor be paid to these images through gestures (bowing, kissing, etc), and that those who reject “all ecclesiastical tradition, whether written or non-written” be condemned (something that would have to be reconciled to the Articles and their affirmation that nothing is required than that which can be proven by Holy Scripture). An Anglican service of the Holy Eucharist can be validly celebrated without a cross upon the Holy Table; an Orthodox liturgy (to the best of my knowledge) demands the use of an icon. It is in these regards that many Anglicans still question the “ecumenicity and application” of the council, while readily admitting that its Christology in defense of Christian art and its use is orthodox. If any Anglican you speak with says otherwise, ask him if he has a Nativity set or has sent a Christmas card with the Virgin and Child upon it.

Relics and Pilgrimages

Every year or so I go to a large shrine that houses the mortal remains, the relics, of a man beloved by millions--the shrine is huge and impressive, filled with icons of the man entombed there. There are paintings, busts, and in a museum nearby numerous wax figures. It is the shrine of the 16th president of the United States. Usually I will take a token of my pilgrimage back with me; last time it was a bust of President Lincoln. With this example we see that most people will embark on some manner of pilgrimage in their lives to visit the tomb of a famous person now deceased, even if it is a secular one. All of us visit the graves of those we have loved and lost. Even the most ardent Protestant must admit the similarity between the two practices.

Wheaton College in Illinois has a collection of the "relics" of C.S. Lewis (personal belongings, etc) and many Christians have made pilgrimages to see them. However, there are no indulgences granted for such trips, and no years will be taken off of time to be spent in purgatory. What such pilgrimages will do is help to connect the living with the faithful who have "departed this life in Thy faith and fear" that "we might follow in their good examples."

There should be no objection to pilgramages to such shrines, either to C.S. Lewis or to Lancelot Andrewes, or to the site of Cranmer or Laud's martyrdom. What most find abhorent (as the Reformers did in the late Middle Ages) is the creation and selling of relics--body parts taken from the grave, dismembered portions from a desecrated corpse removed from his resting place in Christian burial and sold for profit. There is a great and important difference between visiting the tomb of a faithful Christian and taking parts from that faithful Christian in order to create "a tomb away from the grave." We must ask ourselves if we would approve of the dismemberment of a saintly elder of our family so that a church might have "a piece of her" for the parish. . .I would hope not.

Friday, July 28, 2006

In the beginning was the Word

The Anglican Catholic Church of Saint John the Theologian, Pompano Beach, Florida

The interesting things about this church are not only its interior, with its beautiful icon above the altar, but also its history.

From the web page of the parish ( we learn:

"Saint John’s was founded in 1969 by the Rev. Dr. Winfield Blair Sutphin as The Ocean Chapel. In 1973 the church moved to its present location and affiliated with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), though it continued to be essentially an ecumenical church. The name was later changed to St. John’s Christian Church. Dr. Sutphin remained at St. John’s until his death in 1990. He was a highly literate man of keen intellect and an enormously gifted preacher of international repute. . . .

In 1992 the Rev’d Voris Glenn Brookshire was called from ecumenical work as the church’s second minister. Under his leadership the church moved in a more catholic and liturgical direction. On November 1, All Saints Day, 1998, Fr. Brookshire was ordained priest by the Right Rev’d Mark D. Haverland and the congregation was received into the Anglican Catholic Church. The church was then renamed The Anglican Catholic Church of St. John the Theologian. The use of the Eastern Orthodox name for St John the Apostle and Evangelist reflects the church’s effort to embrace as fully as possible the whole of the catholic Church in its eastern and western expressions. A number of Russian icons throughout the church echo this same emphasis. In 2000 the sanctuary was renovated by Edward Zucchi of Victor Zucchi & Sons , Bogata, N.J., to make it more appropriate for Anglican Catholic worship. The Altarpiece was painted by Norman Woehrle after the fresco of the Crucifixion (1208-09), Church of the Virgin, Monastery of Studenica, Serbia. A new sacristy was built in 2002."

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Articles of Religion of the Church of England:

"II. Of the Word, or Son of God, which was made very man.

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 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."

The piece below from Mascall outlines the orthodox realities of the Incarnation--Christ is fully God and fully man, not simply a deity taking on the flesh of man as though putting on a costume, but a real individuation of humanity. Christ took on not only the human body (soma) but a human body informed by a human nature, a human soul (soma psuchekon). He is not only co-substantial with God the Father, but co-substantial with humanity as well. He suffered, was crucified, died, and was buried. He died not only for original guilt, but also for actual sins. This eliminates any consideration of adoptionism, docetism, or gnosticism. Again, here we have nothing more than a summary of orthodox Christology; it goes beyond the Nicene Creed to some extent and clarifies the teaching.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Dr. E. L. Mascall on the reality of the Incarnation

Since human nature, in any individual, is not given from its beginning in a fully developed state but develops from the unrealized potentialities of the original fertilized ovum through birth, infancy, childhood, and adolescence to its climax in adult manhood, we must surely hold that the mentality of Jesus, like that of any other human being, developed pari passu with the development of the bodily organism. To say this is not to imply that it was defective in the early stages; on the contrary, at each stage it was precisely what at that stage it is proper for human nature to be. It is surely a valid insight that asserts that you must not try to put an old head on young shoulders. It is not simply a discovery of modem anthropology that mental and physical (especially cerebral) functioning are intimately and intricately allied; it is inherent in the traditional Christian belief that a human being is not a pure spirit temporarily encapsulated in a body but is a bipartite psychological unity... A modem discussion of Jesus's human knowledge will need to take account of all that is now known about the psychophysical structure of the cognitive process and about the development of human mentality from its beginning in the fertilized ovum to its culmination in adulthood.

While Jesus’ human nature is more and not less genuinely human for its assumption by the Person of the eternal Son of God [as set forth by the Council of Chalcedon], it may for that very reason be expected to manifest powers and capacities which outstrip those of human nature as we normally experience it in ourselves and in others. Some of these powers and capacities may pertain to Jesus simply because his human nature is unfallen and perfect, whereas ours is fallen and maimed, and, though redeemed, is still in process of recreation and restoration. Others may pertain to it because its Person is the divine Word, because “in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Col.1:19). It may be difficult to discriminate in any given case between these alternatives; nor, I think, will it greatly matter, provided we keep a firm grasp upon the principle that, even in the supreme example of the Incarnation, grace does not suppress nature but perfects it. (Whatever Happened to the Human Mind? (London: SPCK, 1980), p. 45.)

Friday, July 21, 2006

The Articles of Religion of the Church of England

Many people do not feel as though the Articles of Religion (the 39 Articles) are important for Anglicanism. Some will misinterpret them as being “anti-Catholic” and then reject them as such (they are not "anti-Catholic," but are definitely “anti-Roman,” but only in the sense that the writings of Hooker, Andrewes, Cosin, and Laud are anti-Roman—these writers are most definitely not “anti-Catholic” and indeed these men were students of the Articles and the theology of the Church Fathers); some will misinterpret them as “Calvinist” (when in reality the hyper-Calvinists were constantly seeking to supplant the Articles; the Articles are at the very least Pauline and at the very most Augustinian on those subjects that seem to perplex many); some will argue that what is good in the Articles is already stated in the doctrine as expressed in the Creeds, the Ordinal, and the Prayer Book—while there is much truth in this, many times the Prayer Book is supplanted by newer liturgies with little grounding in the historic Church of England. Therefore, I suggest that the Articles be taken seriously and studied, within their historical context and in the context of the theology of the Prayer Book and Anglican divines. Indeed, the Anglican divines cannot be studied without a knowledge of both the Prayer Book and the Articles (and why Puritans and Romanists opposed both). With that in mind, let us examine each of the 39 Articles, as they appear in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.

“I. Of Faith in the Holy Trinity.
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 unity of this Godhead there be three Persons, of one substance, power, and eternity; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.”

Very little needs to be said as to the orthodoxy of this statement and its being in concord with the Scriptures as they were interpreted by the fathers of the undivided Church. There are indeed echoes of the Nicene Creed, and here the criticism could be made that this Article only restates that which is already accepted by ascent to the Creed.

However, with so much of "mainline" Christianity lapsing into heterodoxy concerning the very nature of the God we worship as Christians, a firm affirmation of Trinitarian orthodoxy within Anglicanism is a welcome thing. The primary placement of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity in the Articles emphasizes that the personal and triune nature of God is the foundation of Christian theology--without this doctrine none of the subsequent elements of the Christian faith have any coherence.

Friday, July 14, 2006

C.S. Lewis was not an original thinker

These words probably strike the modern ear as somewhat derogatory. However, I use them to praise the great Oxford don. What makes the works of C.S. Lewis such a force within traditional Christianity, read by not only Anglicans, but evangelicals of all stripes, as well as by members of the Roman and Orthodox communions, is that they are not attempts to seek after novelty. True, Lewis did use the methods of fictional story telling, but he used them to set forth the great doctrines of Christianity. Indeed, no orthodox Christian theologian or apologist should seek after novelty; he should seek the mind of antiquity and test his metal there rather than use the tools of the modern age and use them as the measure of truth. Here is where the “mainline theology” of numerous denominations too often uproots itself from the earth of the Scriptures and the ancient Church. Thomas Oden, a prolific writer and theologian of the Methodist tradition has authored a three volume series on systematic theology focused on the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. What makes this series such a gift to the Church—and required reading of all students of Christian thought (clergy and lay alike)—is that it is completely lacking in novelty. Oden explicitly seeks after the consensus of two thousand years, not what has emerged in the last 50.

How many books has one seen in the area of popular theology where something is trumpeted as the “new” or the “improved” or some other manner of a “rethinking” of traditional Christianity? I predict that such works will, in time, disappear. C.S. Lewis will remain, because he did not seek originality—he sought Christian orthodoxy and truth. God bless him for not being an original thinker. In the classical Anglican movement, we need more un-originality in our theology.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

Another in the series on some of the beautiful parish churches that carry on the tradition of classical Anglican Christianity. Pictured here is St. Timothy’s Anglican Church in Jonesboro, Arkansas, a parish of the Reformed Episcopal Church. From what I understand this beautiful sanctuary was once a Mormon meeting house; now it is renovated and arranged for the dignified and orthodox worship of The Book of Common Prayer. Across the country faithful Anglicans continue to establish reverent places of worship.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Anglican unity and the doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist

There is obvious and lamentable disunity among those who consider themselves to be faithful, orthodox, and catholic Anglicans. Part of this disunity stems from differing views on the Real Presence of Christ in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.

Where are we to find harmony on this very important issue of Christian doctrine and fellowship? As Anglicans I believe we must first go to the Scriptures, where we are told by St. Paul that the “. . .Lord Jesus, the same night in which He was betrayed, took bread;and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of Me.’ In the same manner also He took the cup when He had supped, saying, ‘This cup is the new testament in My blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of Me.’ For as often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death until He come. Therefore whosoever shall eat this bread and drink this cup of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and then let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body” (1 Cor 11: 23-29). Similarly, St. Paul declares to us that “The cup of blessing which we bless: is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break: is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we, being many, are one bread and one body, for we are all partakers of that one Bread” (1 Cor 10: 16-17). The writings of the Church Fathers, especially the Apostolic Fathers, declare likewise without any great philosophical speculation. The truth of Christ’s words, and the words of St. Paul, are accepted through faith.

When we turn to the formularies of classical Anglicanism (the 1549-1928 Prayer Books, the Articles, and the homilies) what are we told about the Eucharist? We are told that it is an “outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace” the outward part being bread and wine and the inward part being Christ’s Body and Blood. The Articles declare likewise that the “The Body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten, in the Supper, only after an heavenly and spiritual manner.” In the homilies we read of “the due receiving of the blessed Body and Blood of our Saviour Christ under the form of bread and wine.”

Here, in the classical Anglican documents, we have a very Scriptural teaching which conforms as well to the teachings of the Church Fathers. All, I would hope and pray, could unite around these truths as plainly taught. However, some wish to press beyond these points of agreement and engage in all manner of scholastic inquiry, sowing disunity where there ought to be concord. Some will ask the manner of Christ’s Presence in the Sacrament? Is it bodily, physical, carnal, corporal, localized? Even Thomas Aquinas, the elaborator of transubstantiation, denies these points. If it is “substantial and essential” (which many Anglican divines affirm) does this not require that the substance of the bread and wine cease to be, taken over wholly by the substance of the Body and Blood? Here only Aquinas answers in the affirmative, leaving only “accidents” and “appearances” of bread and wine. The words of St. Paul cannot support this (“The bread which we break: is it not the communion of the body of Christ?), and numerous Church Fathers can be quoted against it, many of them arguing on Christological grounds. Indeed, to take this stance we must allow a Thomist interpretation of Aristotle’s logic to completely supplant the Scriptures and the Fathers.

Great Anglo-Catholics like Kebel, Pusey, and Gore deny the metaphysical annihilation of the bread and wine, as do many great theologians in the Orthodox Communion. Sadly, I have heard of priests in one Anglican jurisdiction refusing to receive the Eucharist from priests in another (or condemning them as heretics) because they have inquired into their personal doctrine of the Presence and found that they do not affirm some element of Aquinas (such as the annihilation of the bread and wine) or elements that go beyond Aquinas (such as a carnal or corporal presence).

My plea is to find unity in the teachings of the Scriptures, the Church Fathers, the liturgy of the Book of Common Prayer, and the Articles. Points of unity should be identified and affirmed among traditional Anglicans using our common heritage; various sacramental theories with no consensus from the undivided Church should be left to the individual’s consideration and debate, but the individual should not unbendingly assert his theory as though it were that of the Church.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury, on symbolism and the Holy Eucharist

From Christus Veritas:

In the physical universe symbolism is the principle of existence. Each lower stratum of Reality exists to be the vehicle of the higher. The organism which was Christ’s Body in His earthly ministry derived the significance entitling it to that name from the fact that it was the instrument and vehicle--the effective symbol--of His Spirit. . . .

The identity which makes it appropriate to speak of our Lord’s fleshy organism, the Church, and the Eucharistic Bread by one name—the Body of the Lord--is an identity of relation to His Personality on the one hand and to His disciples on the other. The addition of the outpoured Blood makes it plain that it is the symbol of His Personality as offered in sacrifice. As we receive His sacrificial Personality we become able to take our part in the one Sacrifice, which is the self-offering of humanity to God. . . .

It is essential to the spiritual value of this sacrament that we do what the Lord did. It is all symbol, but it is expressive, not arbitrary, symbol; that is to say, the spiritual reality signified is actually conveyed by the symbol. The symbol is emphatically not mere symbol; if it were that, we should only receive what our minds could grasp of the meaning symbolised. It is an instrument of the Lord’s purpose to give Himself to us, as well as the symbol of what He gives. What we receive is not limited by our capacity to understand the gift. When with the right intention I receive the Bread and the Wine, I actually receive Christ, whether I have any awareness of this at the moment or not, and always more fully than I am aware. We, by repeating and so identifying ourselves with His sacrificial act, become participants in His one sacrifice. (1924, pp 239-251)