Anglicanism and the Christian Church, ch. 1 – the Reformers

Paul Avis starts his book on Anglicanism and the Christian Church with the impact of the Reformation. I wanted to go over this part specifically first because there are a lot of ambiguities about the Reformation as it occurred in England. This is precisely also in part due to the wide varieties of Anglicans that exist today all claiming their own continuity with the Reformation in the English Church.

Avis states how in this early going, an ecclesiology was developed amongst the Reformers that the Eucharist was rejected “as a propitiatory sacrifice” (10). That might be true with Luther but while the theology of Luther certainly has a prominent impact on the teachings of Anglicanism, Luther certainly does not stand alone nor has he been acknowledged by Anglicans as being 100% correct as even Avis himself points out later on (23). Avis also argues that the Reformation for many was quite compliant and that there was no alleged “forcing” of the Reformation upon any body. Many were quite relieved that they no longer needed to go to confession (7). The difficulty with this is obviously the fact the Luther himself did not even abolish confession (Larger Catechism, section on the sacrament of the altar, 61). He did not teach it as necessary but he never intended to abolish it either. What he intended to abolish in regard to confession was precisely the uses of indulgences that people had been in the practice of buying. This use of indulgences is also condemned by the Council of Trent (25th Session).

Back to Avis though, a major point of contention in Avis is the idea of the difference between Catholic soteriology centered on good works and Protestant soteriology on faith apart from works (17). In regard to the enforcement of the Reformation on people within the Church of England, Avis himself admits this happens with the bishops and the laity as he declares “the bishops would have been empowered to require lay persons of doctrinally suspect views to subscribe to the Thirty-Nine Articles” (20). He concludes the chapter rather wantingly. Even though acknowledging most anti-Roman polemic was rather paranoid (13), he also declares how Henry’s break from the Church of Rome provided Anglicans with a way to be Catholic without the Pope (29).

This leaves so much information wanting. For instance, why did the bishops later decide that Henry’s views needed to be changed from even holding to Catholic theology minus the Pope? Were there bishops who indeed opposes this? Were these bishops silenced?

Regardless, the Reformation occurring in England is proof enough that Mother needs to re-evaluate her position on the infallibility of bishops. It is clearly even a far departure from Anglicanism to presume bishops cannot be questioned if the go astray from the historic doctrine of the Apostolic Church. Avis’s first chapter assumes that much has been quite well-defined already but at the same time also seems to suppose that the Reformers may not have been entirely justified in their views on Roman Catholicism. Since the Reformation polemics from both Catholics and Protestants alike, much discussion has been made and Protestants and Catholics need not even disagree on soteriology any more (Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification). While Anglican theology is clear the there were corrupt practices of the Roman Catholic Church, there are no strict definitions of it in its theology. Thus, an Anglican who understands these corruptions only to be referring to the selling of indulgences at the time or perhaps the selling of indulgences and the clear political favoritism shown by the Roman Catholic Church of providing annulments, and not in regard to the sacraments or the sacrifice of the Eucharist is still fully in line given the ambiguities persisting in Anglicanism. They may not be as well-known as Richard Hooker but they need not be.


About newenglandsun

A student. Male. Passionate. Easily offended. Child-like wonderer. Growing in faith, messing up daily.
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