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January 31, 2011

Evangelical or Catholic? A Bibliography

Filed under: Anglicanism,Ecumenism — William Witt @ 6:49 am
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I want to thank all those who read my post on “Evangelical or Catholic?” In a month, this has received over 1,100 hits, more than any single blog post I have written. I am usually happy if what I write gets 100 reads. Clearly there is sympathy (or at least interest) in getting beyond the old polemics between Evangelicals and Catholics. At the same time, many of the public comments I have received have been negative, both from Protestants and from Catholics (and some Orthodox), who seem quite happy to keep the old polemics alive. Oh, well. This is discouraging, but I am more heartened by the numbers than discouraged by the occasional sniping.

Anyway, I promised at the end of that post to include a bibliography and here it is. These are books that I have found helpful. Some of them are old, and they influenced me in my own path from free church Evangelical to Anglican.  Some are quite new. All are good.

Readers will notice that the ecclesial identities of the authors cover a lot of ground, including not only Anglicans, but also Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, and even the odd Baptist. That is as it should be. Denominational loyalty has never been the primary concern in my own theological studies. Nor should it be, if the choice between Evangelical and Catholic is a false one.

Abraham William, et al. Canonical Theism: A Proposal for Theology and the Church. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008.

William Abraham is a Methodist theologian whose “canonical theism” project is about moving away from the modern focus on epistemological criteria to a focus on the primacy of ontology, and particularly on the historic doctrines and practices of the undivided church, which he and his group refer to as canons: not only Scripture, but also creeds, doctrine, episcopacy, saints, councils, icons. Canonical theism is thus about embracing this “canonical heritage” of the church. (more…)

January 12, 2011

The Anglican Reformers Were Not Zwinglians! Addendum

Filed under: Anglicanism,Theology — William Witt @ 11:26 pm
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Although I did not make the connection at the time, I later realized that the “former Anglo-Catholic” advocating the Zwinglian reading of the Anglican Reformers is Gary W. Jenkins, author of John Jewel And The English National Church: The Dilemmas Of An Erastian Reformer (Ashgate Publishing, 2006). The blurb at Amazon describes the book as follows:

Gary Jenkins argues that, far from serving as the constructor of a positive Anglican identity, Jewel’s real contribution pertains to the genesis of its divided and schizophrenic nature. . . .[H]e paints a picture not of a theologian and humanist, but an orator and rhetorician, who persistently breached the rules of logic and the canons of Renaissance humanism in an effort to claim polemical victory over his traditionalist opponents such as Thomas Harding. By taking such an iconoclastic approach to Jewel, this work . . . demonstrates how he used his Patristic sources, often uncritically and faultily, as foils against his theological interlocutors, and without the least intention of creating a coherent theological system.

An Amazon reader offers a quote from the text:

When using Erastianism as a prism, Jewel’s lack of theologically precise doctrinal formulations becomes not some complex via media between Rome and Geneva, but a means whereby a political necessity was wedded to an ecclesiastical virtue. Jewel’s works do not present a body of theological literature abundant with insight, but instead give a pedestrian reading of scriptural texts, a prosaic use of the early church, and a banal approach to its theological topics. Jewel’s use of sources is often disingenuous, his logic faulty and his theology in several areas flawed. What Jewel really gives the student of the Reformation is an iconoclast in a prelate’s vestments.

I read this book right after it was published. Needless to say, it is a prime example of what I have called “enclave theology.” Jenkins’ reading is not theological, but political, and, to say the least, polemical. Throughout, he assumes Jewel’s insincerity. Jewel’s theology is portrayed as simply the mask behind which lies an Erastian agenda.

What I found most frustrating about the book was precisely Jenkins’ lack of interest in the actual content of Jewel’s theology. If one assumes that someone like Jewel is simply insincere, there is no reason to take his theology seriously, or to read it carefully. I have read both Cranmer and Jewel at length, including their tedious and voluminous debates with Gardiner and Harding. The rhetoric of the debates is typical of the time, on both sides. But what is clear as one reads them is that Cranmer and Jewel were both sincere, and believed sincerely that their eucharistic theology was in line with patristic eucharistic theology in a way that transubstantiation was not.

How do Jewel and Cranmer differ from Zwingli? (more…)

January 10, 2011

The Anglican Reformers Were Not Zwinglians!

Filed under: Anglicanism,Theology — William Witt @ 7:27 am
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chalice Although I am certain it is a mere coincidence, at Titus19, Kendall Harmon has linked to a blog post by a former Calvinist and former Anglo-Catholic, now (apparently) Roman Catholic, who advocates exactly the kind of old school “clear break” version of Reformation histoiography I had mentioned in my recent post in which I argued that Anglicans did not have to make a choice between being Evangelical or Catholic.

The author makes the usual kinds of arguments one sometimes finds among Catholic converts: that the Anglican Reformation was entirely a Protestant (and basically Calvinist) movement, and a clear break from Medieval Catholicism, that John Jewel was simply an Erastian. The author strangely interprets Jewel to hold the position that there was no Catholic church in the first six centuries after Christ. More to the point, according to the author, for Jewel, “Catholic” simply means “Protestant.” To the contrary, Jewel had argued not only that there was such a Catholic church, but that the late Medieval Church had in many ways departed from it. In his Apology, Jewel identified catholicity with the same marks identified in the 2nd Century over against Gnosticism: Canon of Scripture, Rule of Faith, episcopacy in continuity with the apostolic church, and worship in Word and Sacrament. And Jewel noted correctly that the Church of England had retained all of these.

The author also claims (incorrectly) that the Anglican Reformers were Zwinglian in their eucharistic theology. Once in awhile, one comes across these attempts to interpret the Anglican Reformers as Zwinglian in their eucharistic theology, whether by those of catholic leanings (who are attempting to do demolition work) or by low-church Evangelicals, hoping to score points against Rome. (more…)

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